589 dead as quake devastates remote China region

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589 dead as quake devastates remote China region

Post  Sirop14 on Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:15 pm

Survivors from an earthquake that killed 589 people in a remote area of China Wednesday faced a cold night without shelter, as rescuers using their bare hands searched for survivors. Skip related content
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China has sent 5,000 rescue workers to the disaster zone Enlarge photo

* China has sent 5,000 rescue workers to the disaster zone Enlarge photo
* Chinese rescue workers search through the rubble of collapsed buildings Enlarge photo
* This frame grab taken off Chinese state CCTV shows a damaged building following a strong …More Enlarge photo
* The remote high-altitude region is prone to earthquakes Enlarge photo


Thousands were injured when the quake toppled mud-and-wood houses and school buildings in the northwestern province of Qinghai, but police managed to pull over 900 people alive from ruined buildings.

Many more are believed buried and forecasters predict wind and sleet in coming days, while seismologists warned of further aftershocks, adding to the trauma of victims preparing for a night in the open.

Among the dead were children buried when the devastating quake measuring at least 6.9 rocked the predominantly Tibetan region earlier in the day, in scenes that brought back memories of a massive killer quake two years ago.

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama offered prayers for those who died while Pope Benedict XVI called for "solidarity" with the victims and nations including Germany, Japan and France voiced shock and offered help.

About 10,000 people were injured in the quake, which disrupted telecommunications, knocked out electricity, toppled temples and triggered landslides, hampering rescue efforts in the mountainous area.

State media spoke of panicked residents fleeing their homes while others hunted for loved-ones trapped in the ruins in Yushu prefecture, the epicentre of the latest disaster to strike the world's most populous nation.

President Hu Jintao called for all-out efforts to save as many people as possible, with over 5,000 rescuers including soldiers rushing to the disaster zone while the government said it would provide over 29 million dollars in aid.

Xinhua news agency reported that 589 people had been confirmed dead, quoting officials co-ordinating the rescue. The agency said many people were still buried in the rubble as aftershocks rumbled on.

"There are 10 people in my family and only four of us escaped. One of my relatives died. All the others are buried under the rubble," Samdrup Gyatso, 17, told Xinhua after his two-storey home crumbled.

Zhuohuaxia, an official in Jiegu, seat of the Yushu government, reported a lack of tents, medicines and medical equipment for the survivors.

The quake wreaked havoc on the flimsy earth and wood houses near the epicentre, around 800 kilometres (500 miles) or at least 12 hours by road from the provincial capital.

"The injured are everywhere in the street, a lot of people are bleeding from head wounds," Xinhua quoted Zhuohuaxia as saying, adding that more than 85 percent of houses collapsed in Jiegu.

Among the dead were at least 56 pupils and five teachers, Xinhua said, quoting local authorities.

Another 40 students trapped in the debris have a slim chance of surviving, the agency reported.

"Some pupils ran out of dorms alive, and those who had not escaped in time were buried," said one teacher.

The scene was reminiscent of the huge quake in May 2008 in Sichuan province, where thousands of children died when their shoddily-constructed schools fell on them -- an issue that caused huge controversy in China.

Nearly 87,000 people were killed or missing in the 2008 disaster, the worst in China in more than three decades.

Rescue teams including 700 soldiers and more than 5,000 other people are being rushed to the disaster zone, Xinhua said, while the civil affairs ministry was to send 5,000 tents, 50,000 coats and 50,000 quilts.

The United States Wednesday was "ready to assist" in the rescue effort, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, while the UN said its chief Ban Ki-moon "recognises the efforts being undertaken by the government of China to assess the situation and to assist those affected by the earthquake".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to Hu offering condolences and voicing confidence "in China's ability to overcome this latest ordeal".

"France is ready to respond to any request for assistance that the Chinese authorities may put forward to come to the aid of affected populations in Qinghai," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

State television broadcast images of dogs being led into huge planes going to the scene to help with the search for survivors.

"We have to mainly rely on our hands to clear away the debris as we have no large excavating machines," said Shi Huajie, a paramilitary police officer. "We have no medical equipment either."

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