Wednesday, April 14, 2010
At least 400 people have been killed and a further 10,000 injured by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake and its aftershocks which struck remote and mountainous Yushu county, in the south of Qinghai province in the west of China.
An official for the town of Jiegu (Gyêgu), the county seat, which was one of the worst-hit locations, said that “the death toll will definitely go up.”
The USGS reports the tremors started at 07.49 local time (23.49 UTC). The epicentre was 240 kilometres north-northwest of Qamdo, Xizang, and 375 kilometres south-southeast of Golmud, Qinhai, at a depth of ten kilometres. The China Earthquake Networks Center, however, conflicted the USGS statistics, putting the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.1.A local official, Huang Limin was quoted by the Chinese Xinhua news service as saying: “Soldiers have been dispatched to save the people buried in the collapsed houses.” Authorities have ordered supplies to be moved to the area, but Yushu is hundreds of miles away from any airport, according to the BBC.
The USGS also reported there was a 5.8 magnitude aftershock hit the same area about an hour and a half later, at 09.25 local time (01.25 UTC).
The head of news for the Yushu county television station, who was a witness to the quake, spoke to the state broadcaster CCTV about the incident, saying “In a flash, the houses went down. It was a terrible earthquake. In a small park, there is a Buddhist tower and the top of the tower fell off.” He said that residents fled after the tremors began.
“Everybody is out on the streets, standing in front of their houses, trying to find their family members,” he added.
Another official commented that around 85% of the buildings in the town of Jiegu, located close to the quake’s epicentre, were destroyed, saying that “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.”
The plateau where the earthquake hit is frequently visited by tremors; however, there are rarely many casualties due to its remoteness and small population. However, in May 2008 a heavy 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck near Sichuan foothills, killing 80,000 people.