Photo by China Daily
A series of strong earthquakes have hit the county of Yushu, in the western Qinghai Province. The China Earthquake Networks Center has measured the main quake to be a magnitude of 7.1. The death toll is now estimated to be over 300.
Update: Xinhua reports death toll of approximately 400, with 8,000 injured.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that a magnitude 6.9 trembler struck the area of southern Qinghai, at 7:49am Wednesday morning. Qinghai borders the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xingjiang and the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan. The USGS recorded two strong aftershocks — of magnitudes 5.2 and 5.3 — within half an hour of the quake. Another aftershock was recorded as being 6.3 magnitude about an hour and 36 minutes later.
The epicenter was located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Qamdo, Tibet. The prefecture has a population of about 252,000 people, about 97% of whom are Tibetan.
The main quake sent residents fleeing as it toppled houses made of mud and wood, said Karsum Nyima, the Yushu county television station’s deputy head of news, speaking by phone with broadcaster CCTV.
The China Earthquake Administration announced the initial death toll in a brief statement on its Web site. Rescue efforts were hindered by initial telecommunications problems. As of 10:40am, a 62-man rescue team from Qinghai and another 40-man rescue team from Tibet had been dispatched to the quake-hit region. Rescue teams from Gansu and Shannxi provinces were on standby.
Although China National Radio has said that 90 percent of the homes in the area had collapsed but that schools and government buildings had largely remained standing, newer reports are to the contrary, with an unknown number of primary school students buried in the rubble. Such conflicting reports were also the case during the recent tragedies in Sichuan province during the 2008 7.9 scale earthquake with a casualty rate of over 70,000.