617 Dead in Western China Quake (Updated)
The quake, which struck at 7:49 a.m. in Qinghai Province, bordering Tibet, had a magnitude of 7.1, according to China’s earthquake agency.
The China Earthquake Networks Administration said the quake struck in Yushu County, a remote and mountainous area sparsely populated by farmers and herdsmen, most of them ethnic Tibetans. The region, pocked with copper, tin and coal mines, is also rich in natural gas.
As with the devastating earthquake two years ago that killed 87,000 in neighboring Sichuan Province, many buildings collapsed, including schools. But with Qinqhai’s far smaller and less densely grouped population, the toll is likely to remain far lower. A seismologist, Gu Guohua, said in an interview with the national broadcaster CCTV that 90 percent of the homes in the county seat, Jeigu, had collapsed. The houses, he said, were of “quite poor quality,” with many constructed of wood, mud and brick.
See also “China central gov’t allocates $29.3 mln for Qinghai quake relief” from Xinhua.
Jiegu Town, the capital of Qinghai’s Yushu County and the biggest town hit by the disaster, has a population of around 67,000, more than 90 percent of whom are ethnic Tibetans. In the hours after the quakes, fires raged, fueled by gas from broken pipes and wood from shattered buildings.
Part of a primary school in Jiegu Town also crumbled, just as students were about to start morning classes. Li, the local finance official, said he’d seen six or seven dead Tibetan children in the school compound.
“The kids had just entered school and were about to have classes,” he said, adding that while the older buildings were destroyed, the newer structures on the campus remained standing. In the 2008 Sichuan quake, several schools collapsed while surrounding buildings stayed standing, triggering angry accusations from parents that corrupt local officials had allowed builders to skirt construction codes.
The local red cross says 70% of the schools have collapsed in Jiegu.
The New York Daily News has compiled a Twitter list for earthquake news.
Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that netizens are having trouble discussing the earthquake in online forums due to a previous block on the word “Qinghai”:
Discussions about the earthquake in Qinghai have put the spotlight on “Qinghai” as a keyword on Baidu’s online discussion forum “Tieba,” or Post Bar–and users are finding that that discussion is not allowed.
People writing about the quake in Chinese on Twitter, under the hashtag “#qhdz” said they have been noticing that searches for “Qinghai” in Chinese on Baidu Post Bar turn up a message that says: “Sorry, according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, this bar [discussion] is temporarily not open” (as seen below).
– A post by Evan Osnos summarizing important points in the earthquake reporting
– “In Western China Earthquake, Ghosts of Sichuan Loom” from the Newsweek blog
– “China Quake: Catastrophe on the Edge of the Empire” from Time
– How to help victims of the China earthquake from USA Today
– Google has launched a people finder for the affected region
Update 2: Malcolm Moore of the Daily Telegraph, who was traveling to the quake zone, tweeted that all foreign journalists have been banned from quake zone. Domestic journalists from outside Qinghai also barred from reporting on the ground, according to some reports.