China quake kills hundreds

 Some 400 people have died and
thousands are feared injured after a magnitude-6.9 quake hit western China’s
Qinghai province, officials say.

The powerful tremor struck remote
Yushu county, 800km (500 miles) south-west of the provincial capital Xining, at
0749 (2349 GMT), at a shallow depth of 10km.

Most of the buildings in the
worst-hit town of Jiegu were wrecked, and landslides have cut off roads.

 Police said hundreds of survivors
had already been pulled from the rubble.And at least one aid flight had
been able to land at the local airport, according to officials.

Senior Yushu official Huang Liming
announced the latest death toll of 400, as the extent of the damage became
clearer.

State broadcaster CCTV reports that
at least 10,000 people are injured.

A local official in Jiegu told the
BBC that almost all of the buildings in the town had been destroyed.

“The death toll will definitely
go up,” he said.

About 5,000 specialist quake
rescuers have been dispatched from neighbouring provinces.

Many people have fled to the
surrounding mountains, amid fears that a nearby dam could burst.

State media reported that officials
were trying to drain a reservoir after a crack appeared in the dam.

A spokesman for the local
government, Zhuo Huaxia, told China’s state news agency Xinhua: “The
streets in Jiegu are thronged with panic – injured people, with many bleeding
in the head.

“Many students are buried
under the debris due to building collapse at a vocational school.

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

In 2008, a huge quake struck in
neighbouring Sichuan province, about 800km from Yushu, which left 87,000 people
dead or missing and five million homeless.

The dead included many
schoolchildren, prompting a storm of controversy over alleged shoddy
construction of school buildings.

Earlier, Karsum Nyima, the local TV
station’s deputy head of news, told CCTV that houses had gone down “in a
flash”.

“It was a terrible earthquake.
In a small park, there is a Buddhist tower and the top of the tower fell
off,” he said.

“Everybody is out on the
streets, standing in front of their houses, trying to find their family
members.”

Earthquake survivors are struggling
to stay warm in temperatures of about 6C (43F).

Power and water have been cut off,
and the road to the local airport is reported to have been blocked by
landslides.

After the Sichuan quake, the
disaster response was widely praised, but the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas in
Beijing says the remoteness of Yushu means this rescue effort will pose very
different challenges.

Although the high-altitude region
is prone to earthquakes, officials from the US Geological Survey said this was
the strongest tremor within 100km of the area since 1976.

The Yushu region, home to 250,000
mostly ethnic Tibetans, is dotted with coal, tin, lead and copper mines.

The region is roughly half-way
between Xining and Lhasa, about 400km from the Qinghai-Tibet railway line.

 

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