Strong earthquakes struck a mountainous Tibetan area of western China yesterday, 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 US Geological Survey as magnitude 6.9.
Panicked people, many bleeding, flooded the streets of a Qinghai Province township where most of the homes had been flattened. Students were reportedly buried inside several damaged schools.
Paramilitary police used shovels to dig through the rubble in the town, footage on state TV showed. Officials said excavators were not available and with most of the roads leading to the nearest airport damaged, equipment and rescuers would have a hard time reaching the area. Hospitals were overwhelmed, many lacking even the most basic supplies.
Downed phone lines, strong winds and aftershocks also hindered rescue efforts, said Wu Yong, commander of the local army garrison.
With many people forced outside, the provincial government said it was rushing 5,000 tents and 100,000 coats and blankets to the mountainous region, at about 4,000m high and where night-time temperatures plunge below freezing.
Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said a 23-member rescue team could leave for Qinghai within hours to provide relief assistance.
The Red Cross Society of the Republic of China also said it had been in contact with China’s Red Cross and was ready to set off for the earthquake-hit region to provide support and assistance.
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