Authorities in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin sent in emergency rescue teams after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked the city of Songyuan early on Monday, officials said.
State-run news agency Xinhua said no casualties had yet been reported after the quake hit Songyuan's Ningjiang distict at 1.50 a.m., but panicked residents left their homes and took refuge in the open after the tremors struck.
The United States Geological Survey measured the quake in the same location, but put the magnitude at 5.1, according to the USGS official website.
"Residents in Songyuan city said they felt strong tremors and many people rushed out to the streets after the earthquake happened," Xinhua reported, adding that an emergency response mechanism had been set in motion.
A Songyuan resident surnamed Wang said her home was close to the epicenter.
"We were right in the epicenter, or at least very close to it," Wang said. "It was a fairly rural area within city limits, and all of the primary and secondary schools were closed for a vacation."
"I haven't heard anything else; it is business as usual here."
A rescue worker who asked to remain anonymous told RFA that they had been sent in to assist in the area, where some buildings had collapsed.
"We are there on the ground; the teams have arrived," the rescue worker said. "Our Red Arrows rescue team are based in the city, and they were at the scene in the middle of the night."
"Judging from the photos they are sending back, the damage isn't very severe; some older buildings collapsed," he said. "The epicenter was located in a place of fairly low population density; not really in the urban area at all."
"The buildings there are all single-story, not multistory, so anything under 6.5 isn't going to have much of an impact at all," he said. "It would be much worse for anything above 7.5."
He said there had been no reports of deaths or injuries so far during the rescue operation.
"I have been watching their reports since the early hours, and there had been nothing as of around 9.00 a.m.," the rescue worker said. "I don't think there have been many casualties."
The quake struck a region that is prone to seismological activity.
A spokesperson for the Jilin provincial seismology bureau said it is hard to predict whether the region will be hit by a devastating earthquake in the near future, however.
"We are monitoring and making predictions, definitely, but we haven't predicted a big earthquake hitting [the region] in the future," he said. "That wasn't part of the conclusions of our research."
"Also, we can only work from data that comes exclusively from the government," he said. "We don't have the power or the remit to publish those data, so I can't answer your question."
"But these are difficult questions that nobody can answer, whichever expert you might ask; and neither can the Jilin provincial seismology bureau," he said.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Lam Kwok-lap for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.