China earthquake (Wenchuan earthquake)NEW photos
Thousands of people were reported killed today when China’s worst earthquake for 30 years struck a densely populated area in Sichuan province.
The massive quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, flattened schools, offices and houses in the southwestern province, and caused widespread damage in nearby Gansu and Yunnan provinces as well as the sprawling municipality of Chongqing.
The state-run Xinhua news agency said that 8,533 had been confirmed dead in Sichuan province alone.
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China’s national disaster relief headquarters reported 48 killed in northwestern Gansu province, 50 in the municipality of Chongqing, 61 in Shaanxi province and one in southwestern Yunnan, all of which border Sichuan, according to Xinhua.
The combined death toll reported by Xinhua adds up to 8,693 people, but there were fears the toll will rise with reports of hundreds more buried under debris.
Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier, who flew immediately from Beijing to Sichuan province, called it a “major disaster” and urged calm.
The quake struck at 2.28pm (0628 GMT) 57 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Chengdu, which has a population of more than 12 million.
The tremor was felt in cities across South East Asia as far as Bangkok, more than 1,200 miles from the epicentre.
Xinhua reported that as many as 5,000 had been killed and 10,000 injured in Beichuan, a single county of Sichuan where 80 per cent of buildings had collapsed.The news agency reported that up to 900 students were trapped in the rubble of a high school which collapsed in Dujiangyan. Other reports said that at least 50 of them had died.
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China’s response was in marked contrast to that of its neighbour Burma after last week’s devastating cyclone. The Burmese junta continues to block international aid and refuse entry permits for emergency workers.
“Facing disaster the most important thing is calm, confidence, courage and strong leadership,” Mr Wen told China’s CCTV television on a flight to the heart of the quake-hit zone. “We will definitely overcome this major disaster”.
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