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Asia

Thousands Killed by Deadly Earthquake

A fatal earthquake has struck Sichuan province in southwestern China, killing thousands, especially schoolchildren. The country’s leaders have called for calm and urgent action to rescue victims of the “major disaster”. The quake, of 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, was also felt in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand.

People in Beijing evacuate tall office buldings after the earthquake

People in Beijing evacuate tall office buldings after the earthquake

A fatal earthquake has struck Sichuan province in southwestern China, killing thousands, especially schoolchildren. The country’s leaders have called for calm and urgent action to rescue victims of the “major disaster”. The quake, of 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, was also felt in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand.

The massive earthquake struck in the middle of the afternoon, just as office buildings, schools and other state institutions were full. In the capital Beijing, people fled from tall office buildings as they shook.

“We felt very strange,” one office worker explained. “The ceiling moved. At first, I thought I was ill. Then we noticed it was an earthquake. My colleagues stormed in and told us to run fast. I ran down the stairs from the 21st floor. It felt really awful.”

Densely-populated Sichuan Province

Yet the quake struck about 1,500 kilometres away in Sichuan Province, flattening offices, homes, factories and schools in the densely-populated region in China’s southwest.

The epicentre was later identified as being located in Wenchuan County, about 100 kilometres northwest of the massive provincial capital Chengdu, which has a population of 12 million.

China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao immediately said the quake, with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, was a “major disaster”. He called on people to remain calm, whilst President Hu Jintao demanded an “all-out” effort to bring aid to victims.

The State Seismological Bureau said a crisis group of 180 people had been formed and rescue work was underway, with troops having been deployed.

Main victims are schoolchildren

The deadly quake seems to have been particularly cruel to children who were in class. Up to 900 high schoolchildren in the town of Dujiangyan were buried when their building collapsed. Chinese state media showed harrowing footage of teenagers trying to break free from the rubble of the collapsed buildings.

In the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing, dozens of young primary school children died and dozens more were injured as their buildings were flattened. Hundreds of children were still thought to be buried in rubble.

The Xinhua news agency cited an official saying the Three Gorges Dam in Sichuan Province had not been affected by the quake.

Experts fear this quake could be the biggest natural disaster to strike China in recent years. In 1976, almost 250,000 people died when an earthquake shook the northern city of Tangshan, flattening 90 percent of the buildings.

  • Date 12.05.2008
  • Author DW Staff (act) 12/05/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsMH
  • Date 12.05.2008
  • Author DW Staff (act) 12/05/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsMH