9,000 dead, thousands buried in China earthquake(Roundup)

May 13th, 2008 - 1:57 am ICT by admin  

Beijing, May 12 (DPA) Nearly 9,000 people were confirmed dead and thousands more were feared dead after an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale caused widespread damage in south-western China Monday. At least 8,530 died in Sichuan province and scores died in neighbouring regions. But there were apparently still no reports by late Monday evening from Wenchuan county, the nearest town to the epicentre, which has a population of 112,000.

All roads remained cut off to Wenchuan, although it was believed that military helicopters and planes had surveyed the area.

Nearby Beichuan county earlier reported that between 3,000 and 5,000 people were feared dead after the earthquake caused 80 percent of buildings to collapse, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The agency said officials also estimated that about 10,000 people were injured in Beichuan, which is about 100 km from the epicentre.

The earthquake struck at 2:28 p.m. in Wenchuan county, and could be felt in cities hundreds of kilometres away, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

It was the worst earthquake in China since 1976, when an estimated 242,000 people died in the northern city of Tangshan, near Beijing. At least four teenagers were confirmed dead after the earthquake caused school buildings to collapse and bury nearly 900 students at the Juyuan Middle School in Sichuan’s Dujiangyan city.

One Dujiangyan resident told DPA by telephone that her five-storey apartment block and many other buildings in the city were seriously damaged by the earthquake.

A spokesman for the Sichuan provincial seismological bureau told Xinhua that “whole rows of houses” had collapsed in Dujiangyan.

Several hundred workers were buried after two chemical plants collapsed onto them in Sichuan’s Shifang city.

Some 80 tonnes of ammonia leaked from the plants, forcing the evacuation of 6,000 residents in Shifang.

The earthquake also affected Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, and nearby Chongqing.

At least 45 people died in Chengdu, where officials suspended rail and air services, the provincial government said.

The railway ministry said 31 passenger trains and 141 freight trains were stranded after the earthquake.

Initial reports put the magnitude at 7.6 but the State Seismological Bureau later upgraded it to 7.8, while an official at the Beijing Seismological Bureau said it was measured at 8.0.

The government declared a grade-I emergency, the most serious category, to respond to the earthquake damage.

Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Dujiangyan to supervise rescue work, en route urging officials and members of the ruling Communist Party to “work on the front line” to lead relief efforts.

President Hu Jintao also issued a statement urging “all-out efforts to help those affected” by the quake, which was followed by at least six aftershocks measuring 5.0 or higher on the Richter scale.

The People’s Liberation Army dispatched 5,000 troops from Chengdu to help in rescue work and damage assessment in Wenchuan.

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