China earthquake toll rises to 5,000 (Fourth Lead)

May 13th, 2008 - 12:02 am ICT by admin  

Chengdu (China), May 12 (Xinhua) At least 5,000 people may have been killed after a major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted the country’s southwestern Sichuan Province, local disaster relief headquarters said Monday. According to officials, at least 5,000 people are feared dead in the Beichuan County of the province. Around 10,000 people were injured, though the officials have not confirmed the latest toll.

Eighty percent of the buildings in Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County collapsed after the quake. Beichuan is the capital of the Chengdu region in Sichuan Province.

Casualties are being reported from across the Sichuan Province.

The state Seismological Bureau said an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted the Wenchuan County in Sichuan Province at 2.28 p.m. Monday.

The epicentre of the quake was located 31.0 degrees north latitude and 103.4 degrees east longitude, the bureau said.

Officials said around 313 after-shocks, measuring up to six on the Richter scale, have been recorded at 5.28 p.m. Monday in the province.

The local authorities said they were struggling to reach Wenchuan, the county worst hit in the quake. Meanwhile, the army has sent in helicopters to the quake-hit areas for the rescue work.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has arrived in Chengdu and was on his way to Wenchuan.

Wen has called the quake a “major geological disaster”, and called for calm, and confidence to meet the challenges in the face of the disaster.

Earlier, the ministry of civil affairs said that as per its 6.00 p.m. report at least 107 people were killed and over 900 remained buried in the provinces and municipalities of Sichuan, Gansu, Chongqing and Yunnan.

Officials said at least 900 students in Sichuan Province were feared buried after a high school building collapsed in the quake.

Four students, two boys and two girls, were confirmed dead at Juyuan Middle School in Juyuan Township of Dujiangyan City, some 100 km from the epicentre in Wenchuan County, parents and witnesses said.

Xinhua reporters saw a three-storey school building that had partially collapsed. Some buried teenagers were struggling to break loose from underneath the ruins while others were crying out for help.

Grieved parents watched as five cranes were excavating at the site and an ambulance was waiting.

A tearful mother said his son, third-grader Zhang Chengwei, was buried in the ruins.

Two girls said they escaped because they had “run faster than others”.

“It was around 2.30 p.m., and the building suddenly began to rock back and forth,” one of them recalled.

A villager said the school had 18 classes, with about 50 students in each class.

“We ran out of the house when the quake hit,” said Gao Shangyuan, a villager who lives close to the school and helped with the rescue work.

Gao and other villagers helped dozens of students out of the ruins. “Some had jumped out of the window and a few others ran down the stairs that did not collapse.”

The quake was felt in most parts of China.

Tian Yixiang, an officer with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said the troops will assist the local government in the Wenchuan County and will monitor the situation to carry the relief work forward.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Hu Jintao has ordered all-out efforts to rescue the quake-hit victims.

With a population of 111,800, Wenchuan lies in the southeastern part of the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, 146 km to the northwest of Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan.

Wenchuan is home to the Wolong Nature Reserve, China’s leading research and breeding base of the endangered giant pandas.

Another earthquake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale jolted Tongzhou District in east Beijing at 2.35 p.m. Monday. The quake’s epicentre was located at 39.8 north latitude and 116.8 east longitude, according to the State Seismological Bureau.

Tremors were also reported from many other parts of China. Reporters in Chengdu said residential buildings in downtown areas were damaged.

The telecom networks in Chengdu and Chongqing cities snapped after the quake. People complained they were unable to make telephone calls on the fixed line or through the mobile.

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.

Many said they felt dizzy and saw the pendant lamps on their ceilings swinging back and forth.

In Lanzhou, capital of the northwest China’s Gansu Province, the quake sent many parked cars by the roadside buzzing.

Xinhua reporters in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, said they felt the office building rocking back and forth for about four minutes.

A retiree in Leshan City of Sichuan Province said over the telephone that a wall in her garden collapsed, while a repairman in Chongqing saw the ceiling of his factory collapse. In Shanghai, people were evacuated from office buildings in Hongqiao and Nanjing Road.

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