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China earthquake kills hundreds in Qinghai - so far More than 400 people were killed and 10,000 injured when a series of strong
Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 14:37.
More than 400 people were killed and 10,000 injured when a series of strong earthquakes struck the mountainous Tibetan Plateau in south-west China, collapsing schools, offices and thousands of mud-wall houses.
By Malcolm Moore in Xining and Peter Foster in Beijing
The quakes, measuring 6.9 magnitude at their peak, began just after 8am, when children in the sparsely populated region were preparing to go to school, and were followed by a series of six aftershocks that destroyed 85 per cent of houses in the town nearest the epicentre.
Witnesses reported bloodied victims fleeing into the streets in panic as the shocks continued for more than three hour.
"The injured are everywhere in the street, a lot of people are bleeding from head wounds," reported a government official from the town of Jiegu, in the south-western province of Qinghai, which borders Tibet, more than 1,500 miles west of Beijing.
"In a flash, the houses went down. It was a terrible earthquake," added another county-level official.
China said it was dispatching a 5,000-strong rescue force to the region to assist some 1,700 military personnel who were reported to be working with picks, shovels and bare hands to extricate those trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Workers were racing to release water from a reservoir in the disaster area where a crack had formed after the quake to prevent a flood, according to the China Earthquake Administration.
State television showed aircraft being loaded with the first emergency aid deliveries that will include 5,000 tents, 50,000 cotton coats and 50,000 quilts to protect victims against near-freezing temperatures and strong winds that whip across the plateau.
Rescuers said that it could take some time to reach stricken areas, which are a 12 hour drive from the provincial capital of Xining along poor roads, some of which have been damaged by landslides.
The remoteness of the area, which is home to about 100,000 mostly ethnic Tibetan herders and farmers, meant that modern equipment, including earth movers and medical facilities, were also in desperately short supply.
State television showed footage of paramilitary police using shovels to dig around a house with a collapsed wooden roof.
"The difficulty we face is that we don't have any excavators. Many of the people have been buried and our soldiers are trying to pull them out with human labour," a local military official told China's state-run CCTV. "It is very difficult to save people with our bare hands."
In Jiegu, 20 miles from the epicentre, the local fire brigade was trying to rescue 20 students stuck inside a vocational school as well as working to pull out 40 to 50 people trapped in a toppled four-story building.
Elsewhere, employees of the local Yushu prefecture highway department were frantically trying to dig out colleagues trapped in a collapsed building, according to a department official.
The China Earthquake Administration said some phone lines were down, further hindering rescue efforts, while workers were racing to release water from a reservoir where a crack in a dam had formed after the quake.
Fears for now-homeless survivors centred on the lack of medical staff and the cold weather conditions, with temperatures expected to drop below freezing in the higher villages, and force 6 to 7 winds exacerbating the cold.
"I see injured people everywhere. The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine and medical workers," Zhuohuaxia, a local spokesman, told the Xinhua news agency.
The Japanese government offered emergency aid, however was told by Chinese authorities that "there was no need at this stage." Save the Children said it was assessing rescue needs with its Chinese partners. "Children may have been injured and will have to deal with the trauma of what they've been through," said Wyndham James, the charity's China country director.
"They may have been separated from their families and will urgently need protection."
The seismically active region saw a magnitude-7.9 quake two years ago that left almost 90,000 people dead or missing in neighbouring Sichuan province, 400 miles away on the opposite side of the Longmenshan fault. Poor design, shoddy construction and the lax enforcement of building codes were found to be rampant, increasing the death toll.
Wednesday's quake, which was followed by 18 aftershocks, was centred 235 miles south-southeast of Golmud, a large city in Qinghai, at a depth of six miles, according to the US Geological Survey.
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