The death toll from a magnitude 6.6 earthquake that struck southwest China's Sichuan province today has risen to 46, state media reported.

"Another 16 people were missing and 50 were injured," state broadcaster CCTV said.

Some roads and homes near the epicentre were damaged by landslides, while communications were down in at least one area, state television reported.

No damage to dams and hydropower stations within 50km (31miles) of the epicentre was reported, although damage to the provincial grid had affected power to about 40,000 users.

The epicentre was at the town of Luding, the China Earthquake Networks Centre said, in the mountains about 226km southwest of Chengdu.

Firefighters gather near the damaged wall of a fire station in Sichuan
Firefighters gather near the damaged wall of a fire station in Hailuogou

Earthquakes are common in the southwestern province of Sichuan, especially in its mountains in the west, a tectonically active area along the eastern boundary of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.

Video clips on social media showed lights swinging while people rushed out of buildings into the streets.

A total of 39,000 people live within 20km of the epicentre and 1.55 million within 100km, according to state television.

The quake was Sichuan's biggest since August 2017, when one of magnitude 7.0 hit the Aba prefecture.

The most powerful Sichuan earthquake on record was in May 2008, when a magnitude 8.0 quake centred in Wenchuan killed almost 70,000 people and caused extensive damage.

Today's quake was also felt in the provinces of Yunnan, Shaanxi and Guizhou hundreds of kilometres away, according to state media.