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Quake in China Kills 48, Hundreds Injured

20 April 2013 05:12 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A powerful earthquake struck China’s western region of Sichuan province today, killing at least 48 people, injuring hundreds of others, and leaving unknown numbers of people trapped, according to initial estimates by government authorities.

The earthquake, which struck at 8 a.m. local time, occurred in the same province where a quake five years ago killed 70,000 people and left 18,000 missing. Saturday’s quake was centered in the city of Ya’an in Lushan County, a mountainous area about 170 kilometers southwest from Chengdu, the provincial capital.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.6, while Chinese media reports said it was at least 6 miles deep.

The state-run news agency, Xinhua, said there were “serious collapses” of homes, with many old houses in Lushan destroyed. The Sichuan news service said that an official there said many people had been trapped in the collapsed homes.

The Chinese government television, CCTV, reported that President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Le Keqiang had called an emergency meeting to coordinate rescue attempts, and Mr. Le was reported headed to the scene Saturday afternoon. The local police, along with the People’s LIberation Army and other rescue teams were dispatched to the area, CCTV said, with more than 2,000 soldiers and two helicopters dispatched from the Chengdu Military Area Command, Xinhua reported.

The memories of the devastating earthquake in May 2008 in which poorly constructed school buildings collapsed and killed thousands of students caused extra nervousness that Saturday's quake would result in a much higher number of fatalities.
 
The earthquake in 2008 prompted a massive official relief effort, and a passionate outpouring of volunteer help. But some quake-stricken residents and observers faulted the government for putting rescue efforts in the wrong places, or failing to muster the equipment needed to lift victims from under slaps of concrete and brick. Instead, many troops and rescuers clambered over the rubble with sticks and spades. This time, the government appears intent on avoiding any accusations of laggardness, even if the quake is less destructive than the one in 2008.

The Sichuan news service said the People’s Armed Police had been sent to the area to help people affected by the earthquake. Soon after the earthquake, the authorities closed the airport at Chengdu, a major hub for Western China, but then reopened it hours later.

As of midday, the area continued to experience aftershocks, which were also felt in Chengdu, the provincial capital. 29 of the known dead were in Lushan County, with 6 in Baoxing County. Xinhua reported thats the worst damage is in two towns in Lushan County: Shuangshi Town and Longmen Township, both of which suffered serious building collapses and cut roads.

One resident of Longmen Township in the earthquake-stricken area described a chaotic scene.

“Now the houses on both sides of the street have become dangerous buildings.” Zhang Linpeng told the Sichuan news service. “I’ve seen people trapped in the ruins, and some people died. Many of the injured have been pulled out.”

The quake was powerful enough to be felt in at least 200 miles away in Chongqing. After the quake was felt there, people raced down the stairwells of apartment buildings to get outside.(The New York Time)
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