14 Apr 2010

Hundreds killed after quake hits western China

10:53 pm on 14 April 2010

A strong earthquake hit a remote mountainous area of western China on Wednesday, killing about 400 people and injuring thousands as it toppled mud-and-wood houses and at least one school, burying many in rubble.

The 6.9-magnitude quake struck the Tibetan Plateau at 7.49am local time and was centred 380km southeast of the city of Golmud at a depth of 46km, the US Geological Survey said. A series of quakes and aftershocks have also been felt in the region.

About 10,000 people are believed to be injured. The quake has disrupted telecommunications, knocked out electricity and triggered landslides in the province of Qinghai, according to local officials.

The China Earthquake Administration says there is extensive damage to local structures and cracks have appeared in a local dam.

Rescuers were working with their bare hands to clear debris and find survivors from the rubble, with children said to be among the casualties, AFP reports.

About 400 people have been confirmed dead, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, quoting Huang Limin, a top official in the Yushu prefecture where the quake was centred.

The quake wreaked havoc on the flimsy earth and wood houses near the border with Tibet and at least 12 hours by road from the provincial capital. But some sturdier concrete structures also were toppled, according to images shown on state television.

About 700 soldiers have been sent to look for survivors, and more than 5,000 other rescuers will be dispatched to the zone, officials in Qinghai said. The civil affairs ministry was to send 5,000 tents, 50,000 cotton coats and 50,000 quilts to the region.

A massive 8.0-magnitude quake in May 2008 in neighbouring Sichuan province devastated a huge area of southwestern China, leaving at least 87,000 people dead or missing.