Monday, May 12, 2008

900 Students Buried in China Earthquake

A major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2:28 p.m. Monday, the State Seismological Bureau (SSB) said.

Nearly 900 students in southwest China's Sichuan Province were feared buried when a high school building collapsed here in the earthquake. At least four third-graders -- two boys and two girls -- were confirmed dead at Juyuan Middle School in Juyuan Township of Dujiangyan City, about 100 kilometers from the epicenter in Wenchuan County, parents and witnesses said.

Reporters saw a three-story school building 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.

China's Chengdu Military Area Command has dispatched 5,000 troops and armed police to help with disaster relief work in earthquake-stricken Wenchuan County, in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

The Military Area Command sent two helicopters to Wenchuan on Monday afternoon. Armed police forces stationed in Sichuan province has dispatched 2,900 personnel, while regular army personnel made up the rest of the detachment.

Another person was killed when a water tower fell in the city of Mianyang, the news agency reported.

A provincial government spokesman said they feared more dead and injured in collapsed houses in Dujiangyan City in Wenchuan County, Xinhua reported.

The news agency also quoted a driver for the seismological bureau saying he saw "rows of houses collapsed" in Dujiangyan.

Chinese President Hu Jintao immediately ordered an all-out effort to help victims of the earthquakes, Xinhua reported. It said Premier Wen Jiabao would go there to direct the rescue work. Video See workers in Chengdu hiding under their desks during the quake.

"This is a very dangerous earthquake," said Bruce Presgrave, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake has the potential to cause major damage because of its strength and proximity to major population centers, he said. In addition, the earthquake was relatively shallow, Presgrave said, and those kinds of quakes tend to do more damage near the epicenter than deeper ones.
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After the first quake struck Monday, the ground shook as far away as Beijing, which is 950 miles (1,528 km) from the epicenter.

Thousands of people were evacuated from Beijing high-rises immediately after the earthquake.

At least six more earthquakes -- measuring between 4.0 and 6.0 magnitudes -- happened nearby over the three hours after the initial quake at at 2:28 p.m. local time

A spokesman for the Beijing Olympic Committee said no Olympic venues were affected by the earthquake. The massive Three Gorges Dam -- roughly 400 miles east of the epicenter -- was not damaged, a spokesman said.

The earthquake was also felt in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand, according to the Hong Kong-based Mandarin-language channel Phoenix TV.

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