Earthquake in Western China Kills 400 Staff

Earthquake in Western China Kills 400

April 14, 2010

An early morning earthquake in a Tibetan area of western China has left an estimated 400 dead in its wake, according to China's state news agency. Dozens of school children who were just beginning their school day may be trapped in rubble, a dim echo of the deadly Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Another 10,000 are believed to be injured.

The temblors "have toppled houses, temples, gas stations and electric poles, triggered landslides, damaged roads, cut power supplies and disrupted telecommunications," Xinhua  news agency said. "A reservoir was also cracked, where workers are trying to prevent the outflow of water."

CNN reports that the U.S. Geological Survey measured a first shock with a 6.9 magnitude, followed by several strong aftershocks. One reached a 5.8 magnitude.

"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.

"We are short of equipment," Guoyang Zhaxi, a 42-year-old resident helping to free survivors, told the Wall Street Journal. "So the speed of the rescue efforts is very slow." He said nearly all houses in the town—many of which used traditional wood-and-earth construction—had been destroyed. "We need to hurry up or the people who are buried will have no hope," he said.

The Qinghai province, where the quake occurred, regularly experiences tremors but mostly avoids massive damage. The province's sparse population minimizes casualties. This time, however, the quake's epicenter hit the Yushu prefecture and the town of Jiegu. About 85 percent of buildings near the epicenter were destroyed, and 70 percent of schools have collapsed according to NPR.