China quake kills thousands
Beijing, May 12
An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 persons were killed in Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County in mountainous Sichuan province after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region during the early afternoon today, Xinhua news agency said, citing the local government. As many as 10,000 in Beichuan were feared injured and 80 per cent of the buildings there had been destroyed, the report said.
Beichuan’s population is 161,000, meaning about one in 10 residents were killed or injured in the quake. The county is a part of Mianyang city, and about 160 km from the provincial capital,
Hundreds of people were buried under rubble in Shifang in Sichuan as several schools, factories and dormitories collapsed during the quake, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The death toll was expected to rise sharply as the authorities and rescue teams made contact with the worst-hit areas of Sichuan, where phone lines have been cut off since the quake struck. The quake is the worst to hit China in 32 years since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in northeastern China where up to three lakh died.
Today’s quake hit in the middle of the school day, toppling at least eight schools, leaving hundreds of students and teachers trapped, the state media said.
About 900 teenagers were buried in the rubble of a collapsed three-storey school building in the Sichuan city of Dujiangyan. Local villagers had already helped dozens of students out of the ruins and five cranes were excavating at the site as anxious parents looked on, Xinhua said.
“Some buried teenagers were struggling to break loose from underneath the ruins while others were crying out for help,” the agency said. A hospital in the same city also collapsed, the official Xinhua news agency said on its website, quoting a witness.
Another seven schools had been felled by the quake, the state media reported.
Five children were confirmed dead and 120 injured after buildings at two primary schools in rural parts of Chongqing municipality collapsed. Nineteen students and teachers were still buried, Xinhua said.
Chongqing, a municipality of 30 million people, neighbours Sichuan.
The US Geological Survey said on its website (<http://earthquake.usgs. gov>) the main quake struck at 11.59 am at a depth of 10 km. At least 45 had died in the provincial capital, Chengdu, Xinhua said, citing an official with the local seismological bureau.
Another 600 people were injured, 58 of them critically, in the sprawling city of 10 million. State television showed a footage of Chengdu residents, where the airport and the railway station were closed, crowded in the streets looking relatively unscathed.
The quake’s epicentre was in nearby Wenchuan, a mountainous county of about one lakh people, but its force was enough to cause buildings to sway across China and as far away as the Thai capital, Bangkok.
Ten persons were killed and 14 seriously injured in Sichuan’s neighbouring province of Gansu, and a five-year-old girl was killed after she fell in a pond in Yunnan province to the south, where some 3,000 houses were damaged.
Buildings were toppled in at least six counties near the epicentre, Xinhua said.
In Beijing and Shanghai, office workers poured into the streets as the tremor hit. In the capital, which will host the summer Olympics in August, there was no visible damage and the showpiece Bird’s Nest stadium was unscathed, the project’s engineer told Xinhua.
But in Sichuan, phone lines in Wenchuan were down and a website for the region’s Aba prefecture said the quake had cut several major highways and communications were down in 11 counties.
Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Chengdu and President Hu Jintao ordered an “all-outdblquote rescue effort, Xinhua reported.
Thousands of army troops and paramilitary People’s Armed Police carrying medical supplies were also headed to the region, the state television said.
But a landslide had blocked a mountain road leading to Wenchuan, preventing troops from reaching the scene, the state radio said. — Reuters