Friday, June 6, 2008

China quake: Death toll expected to rise

BEIJING: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked southwestern China Monday morning and was felt all the way in Bangkok may see tens of thousands dead.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua said in a news flash that between 3,000 to 5,000 people were feared dead in Sichuan Province's Beichuan country, which was nears the epicentre of Wenchuan County.

Wenchuan is about 145km west of Chengdu, the densely populated provincial capital.

Earlier, Xinhua quoted China's Ministry of Civil Affairs as saying the strong tremor killed at least 107 people in Sichuan's Chengdu, neighbouring Chongqing, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. Up to 900 teenagers were trapped as their middle school buildings in Dujiangyan, suburban Chengdu, partly collapsed. Rescuers were seen on TV using cranes to move away cement and steel structures.

China President Hu Jintao, back from a five-day visit to Japan, has ordered prompt rescue efforts to take care of the affected. Premier Wen Jiaobao cut short his inspection trip in central Henan Privnce and has flown to Chengdu to lead government rescue efforts.

More than 5,000 members of the armed forces and 3,000 policemen have also been rushed to Wenchuan and surrounding areas to spearhead rescue efforts.

Wen told reporters during his flight to Sichuan that the central government is closely monitoring the disaster relief work.

"I will be in charge of relief work headquarters that has been set up with eight State Council departments," Wen said.

Reporters in Juyuan town, about 60 miles from the epicentre, said that they saw trapped teenagers struggling to break loose from underneath the rubble of the three-story building "while others were crying out for help."

Two female students were quoted as saying they escaped because they had "run faster than others."

Many residents in Chengdu and elsewhere near Sichuan are expected to stay out-doors or in makeshift beds, as they fear more follow-up quakes and aftershocks.

Quake felt nationwide

In Beijing's financial district, many workers poured out from their buildings but there were no visible signs of damage. The subway system was unaffected.

"People were shouting 'get out, get out', so we all ran out of our dorm," said a student from a university in nearby Chongqing.

Reporters in many other parts of China also reported tremors.

The telecom networks in Chengdu and Chongqing were down for a while after the quake, cutting off all communications.

The quake was also felt in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, where people rushed out of homes and offices and took to the streets.

In Shanghai, people were evacuated from office buildings in Hongqiao and Nanjing Road. -- China Daily/ ANN

(sources from http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/5/12/nation/20080512223158&sec=nation, dated 12th May 2008)

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