Indiana Daily Student

400 dead in China quake

A series of strong earthquakes struck western China on Wednesday, killing at least 400 people and injuring more than 10,000 as houses made of mud and wood collapsed, officials said. Many more people were trapped, and the toll was expected to rise.

The largest quake was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey as magnitude 6.9.
In the aftermath, panicked people, many bleeding, flooded the streets of a Qinghai township where most of the homes had been flattened. Students were reportedly buried inside several damaged schools.

Police used shovels to dig through the rubble, footage on state television showed. Officials said excavators were not available.

Crews worked to repair the damaged road to the nearest airport and clear the way for equipment and rescue teams. Hospitals were overwhelmed, many lacking the most basic supplies, and there were few doctors.

By nightfall, the airport was operating with emergency power and receiving relief flights carrying medical workers and supplies, state media reported.

Downed phone lines, strong winds and frequent aftershocks hindered rescue efforts, said Wu Yong, commander of the local army garrison. Yong said the death toll “may rise further as lots of houses collapsed.”

The provincial government said it was rushing 5,000 tents and 100,000 coats and blankets to the mountain region, where night temperatures plunge below freezing.

Workers raced to release water from a reservoir, where a crack had formed after the quake, to prevent a flood, according to the China Earthquake Administration.

The Wednesday quake struck at 7:49 a.m. local time. The region is remote, making the rescue operation logistically difficult.

The USGS recorded six temblors in less than three hours, five registering 5.0 or higher.

The China Earthquake Networks Center measured the largest quake’s magnitude at 7.1.  The quake also triggered landslides, Xinhua said.

“There was so much dust in the air, we couldn’t see anything,” said Ren Yu, general manager of Yushu Hotel in the county’s main town. “There was a lot of panic. People were crying on the streets. Some of our staff, who were reunited with their parents, were also in tears.”

The death toll rose to about 400 by afternoon, according to China Central Television. Emergency official Pubucairen was quoted as saying the number of injured rose to more than 10,000.

The official said rescuers were treating the injured at hospitals, race tracks and sports stadiums.

President Hu Jintao sent more than 5,000 soldiers, medical workers and other rescuers were mobilized, joining 700 soldiers already on the ground, Xinhua said.

Yushu was for centuries home to Buddhist monasteries and a trading hub and gateway to central Tibet. In recent years, the government has poured investment into Yushu, opening an airport last year and building a highway.

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