400 killed in Western China earthquake; 10,000 injured
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Last Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 19:17
Beijing: A powerful earthquake today devastated China's remote north-western province of Qinghai killing 400 people as it toppled houses, created cracks in dams and left 10,000 injured, officials said.

The trembler measuring 7.1-magnitude on Richter scale hit the province in the Qinghai Tibetan plateau early today almost flattening Jiegu township, where more than 85 per cent of the houses collapsed.

Indian embassy in Beijing said that they have not received reports of any casualty of Indian nationals.

Paramilitary and rescue workers were working with t their hands to remove the rubble to save the people buried under it. TV footage said that all access roads to the region had been damaged and even the airport cut off.

Downed phone lines, strong gales and continuing aftershocks were hindering the rescue efforts with Xinhua reporting that people with blood were lying on the roads.

The Chinese official said the toll could go up as the houses in the remote area are mostly made of mud and almost all of them collapsed in the quake.

This quake comes less than two years after a magnitude 7.9 quake hit the neighbouring Sichuan province which left 90,000 people dead.

The workers were working hard to release from a reservoir on the town's outskirts where cracks had been formed. Among the casualties were school children, who were buried under the debris of the building.

Many people are still buried under the debris of collapsed houses in the Gyegu Town near the epicentre in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in southern Qinghai, said Huang Limin, deputy secretary-general of the prefecture government.

The strong quake had a string of aftershocks, with the biggest one measuring 6.3 magnitude, have toppled houses, temples, gas stations and electric poles, triggered landslides, damaged roads, cut power supplies and disrupted telecommunications, official Xnhua reported.

Gyegu, also known as Jiegu, is the seat of the Yushu prefecture government. The town has a population of about 100,000, including permanent residents and migrant people.

About 700 soldiers are now struggling to clear away the rubble and rescue the buried people, a spokesman with the Qinghai Provincial Emergency Office said.

More than 5,000 additional rescuers, including soldiers and medical workers, have been dispatched to the quake-hit region, according to a news conference held by the Qinghai provincial government.

"Our top priority is to save students. Schools are always places that have many people," said Kang Zifu, an army officer in the rescue operation in Gyegu.

The quake also killed five people and injured one another in the Shiqu County, which neighbours Yushu, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in Sichuan Province, local authorities said.

"The streets in Gyegu are thronged with panic, injured people, with many bleeding from the head," he said. "Many students are buried under the debris due to building collapse at a vocational school," he said.

"A large crack appears in the wall of the Yushu Hotel, and part of a government office building also collapsed," he said.

"I can see injured people everywhere. The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine and medical workers," he said.

The epicentre of the quake is at the Rima Village in the Shanglaxiu Township, about 50 km west of Gyegu and about 800 km away from Xining, the Qinghai provincial capital.

"The epicentre is a pasturing area and sparsely- populated. I think the quake would not cause casualties as heavy as those in Jiegu," Zhuohuaxia said.

Zhu Liang, a driver at the Yushu prefecture government, said he saw half of the buildings in the Yushu Vocational School had collapsed.

"I do not know how many students have died," said Zhu, who is now in the rescue operation.

"Students just got up and were yet to go to class when the quake happened. I recovered several bodies from the debris and found they were fully dressed," he said.

"Buildings in our school were all toppled, and five pupils have died," said a teacher surnamed Chang at the Yushu Primary School, a boarding school with about 1,000 students.

"Morning sessions did not begin when the quake happened. Some pupils ran out of dorms alive, and those who had not escaped in time were buried," Chang said.

"The houses here are almost all made of wood and earthen walls, which will easily collapse when a quake happens," said Karsum Nyima, deputy director of the News Department of the Yushu TV Station.

Although Yushu is a sparsely-populated region, experts said the quake is very likely to cause "heavy" casualties.

"The strong quake has a shallow depth and the epicentre is close to the prefecture seat," said Sun Shihong, a research fellow with the China Earthquake Networks Center in Beijing.

"It is estimated there will be heavy casualties, as the quake occurred in the early morning and most of the local residents were yet to get up," he said.

"In addition, according to the building structure and damages, a large number of people will be injured," he added. The quake was strongly felt in the neighbouring Qamdo Prefecture and other regions in Tibet.


First Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 19:17

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