400 killed in Western China earthquake; 10,000 injured

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.

PTI



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

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