Monday, May 12, 2008

Powerful Earthquake Rocks Central China

Chinese state media reports that the earthquake buried 900 students in central China on Monday and killed at least 107 people. The earthquake was 7.8-magnitude, sending thousands of people fleeing from buildings miles away in Beijing and Shanghai. The quake's fury was felt as far away as Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand.

In addition to the 107 people that had died, 34 people were injured. Four of the deaths were children who died when two elementary schools in Chongqing municipality collapsed. One person was killed when the trembler toppled a water tower in neighboring Sichuan province where the earthquake was centered.

It is still unknown if any of the 900 buried students are alive.

The quake struck about 60 miles northwest of Chengdu at 2:28 p.m. and there were several smaller aftershocks, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its Web site.

A text message by an Israeli student in the region stated: "Traffic jams, no running water, power outs, everyone sitting in the streets, patients evacuated from hospitals sitting outside and waiting."

One Chinese news source stated that an underground water pipe ruptured near the city's southern railway station, flooding a main thoroughfare. Reporters saw buildings with cracks in their walls but no collapses.

Beijing, some 930 miles to the north, suffered rattled buildings during this quake less than three months before the Chinese capital is expected to be full of hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors for the Summer Olympics.

A number of Beijing office towers were evacuated. The main offices and housing for the media offices of the organizers of the Olympics were evacuated as well.

The quake was felt as far away as the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, where some people felt the rumbling of the ground and the swaying of the office buildings was enough reason to flee into the streets downtown. A building in the Thai capital of Bangkok also was evacuated after the quake was felt there.

Experts say a magnitude 7.8 earthquake is considered a major event, capable of causing widespread damage and injuries in populated areas. The last serious earthquake in China was in 2003, when a 6.8-magnitude quake killed 268 people in Bachu county in the west of Xinjiang. China's deadliest earthquake in modern history struck the northeastern city of Tangshan on July 28, 1976, killing 240,000 people. The death toll may rise with this one, and may include the 900 buried students. My prayers are with them that they are alive, and survived this cataclysmic natural disaster.

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