In Qinghai Province in China, Earthquake Kills Hundreds and Levels Buildings

Article excerpt

A China earthquake left at least 400 people dead and 10,000 injured, as rescue teams rushed to northwestern Qinghai Province.

At least 400 people were killed and 10,000 injured early Wednesday after an earthquake of at least 6.9 magnitude hit a mountainous agrarian part of Qinghai Province in northwestern China.

Striking around dawn while many locals were at home, the quake collapsed buildings in Jiegu Township, near the epicenter, trapping hundreds under rubble, Huang Limin, deputy secretary-general of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

More than 85 percent of the houses in Jiegu, a town of 100,000 people, were destroyed, Zhuo Huaxia, a prefectural official told Xinhua: "The streets in Jiegu are thronged with panicked, injured people, with many bleeding in the head. Many students are buried under the debris due to building collapse at a vocational school."

With memories of the 2008 earthquake in neighboring Sichuan Province still strong, the government's response to this disaster will be closely watched, particularly since the quake zone is in a poor area largely inhabited by ethnic Tibetans.

A day's drive from main airport

By early evening, some rescue teams able to land at the damaged airport in Yushu, in southwestern Qinghai, were trying to deliver the first emergency medical supplies, food, and tents, China Central Television said.

Other teams will have to make their way 18 hours through the mountains by automobile from the capital Xining, in the northeastern part of the province, CCTV said.

"The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine, and medical workers," Zhuo told Xinhua.

The epicenter at Rima Township, 30 miles from Jiegu, is a sparsely populated pastureland, where fewer casualties are likely to be recorded, Zhuo told Xinhua.

"Our first task is to save students. Schools are always places that have many people," said Kang Zifu, a People's Liberation Army officer in the rescue operation in Yushu, told Xinhua.

Scars from Sichuan quake

In May 2008, 5,335 Chinese students were crushed when their schools collapsed in the 8.0 magnitude Sichuan earthquake, official data showed, sparking widespread public criticism of shoddily built government schools and an outcry over Beijing's reaction to the quake, which many perceived to be insufficient. …