400 killed, thousands injured in China quake

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    A strong earthquake and aftershocks rattled northwestern China’s Qinghai Province over the last 15 hours, killing at least 400 and injuring over 10,000, according to Xinhua. At least 18 aftershocks have hit the region since the main tremor.

    The quake was measured by the USGS at magnitude-6.9 with at least three aftershocks of at least magnitude-5.0, the strongest being magnitude-5.8. The tremor was centered ten kilometers (6.2 miles) below the earth’s surface and located 375 kilometers (235 miles) south-southeast of Golmud, China, or 1,905 kilometers (1,190 miles) west-southwest of Beijing, China. The epicenter occurred at the Rima Village in the Shanglaxiu Township, deemed as mainly pasture land and sparcely populated. The main quake occurred around 7:49 am local time Wednesday (6:49 pm central time Tuesday) with aftershocks following for many hours after. The USGS stated that at least 17,000 people were subjected to Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) values between VII, which equates to very strong shaking, and X, extreme shaking.

    According to Xinhua News, the quake has toppled houses, temples, several schools and gas stations, and the tremor has affected infrastructure by toppling power poles, damaging roads, causing landslides and disrupting communications. Additionally, officials report that a reservoir was cracked by the quake, and officials are currently trying to prevent further damage by leaking water. Gyegu, the seat of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu prefecture with a population of 100,000 and is also known as Jiegu, received the heaviest amount of damage. Officials in Yushu have said that over 85 percent of the homes in Gyegu, primarily made of wood and earth, had been destroyed. They believe that many people were trapped under the rubble of their homes.

    Weather conditions in the coming days may hamper rescue and cleanup efforts, which are being conducted by local military personnel, the China Earthquake Administration, the Red Cross Society of China and surrounding provincial officials. Officials believe that the death toll will increase due to the number of collapsed homes and buildings. The nearest airport, the Batang airport, was damaged by the quake. The Civil Aviation Administration of China was urging local officials to dispatch relief supplies and personnel to the airport to allow it to reopen as soon as possible. The airport was around 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the epicenter of the tremor. The last devastating earthquake experienced in the region was May 12, 2008, when a magnitude-7.9 earthquake killed over 87,000 people in neighboring Sichuan.