BEIJING – A series of strong earthquakes struck China’s western Qinghai province today, killing at least 300 people, injuring thousands and burying many others under toppled houses in a mountainous rural area, officials and state media said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 6.9 temblor struck an area in southern Qinghai, near Tibet, and was followed by several aftershocks.
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.
“In a flash, the houses went down. It was a terrible earthquake,” he said. “In a small park, there is a Buddhist tower and the top of the tower fell off. … Everybody is out on the streets, standing in front of their houses, trying to find their family members.”
The quake hit the county of Yushu, a Tibetan area in Qinghai’s south, said the China Earthquake Networks Center, which measured the quake’s magnitude at 7.1.
A local government Web site put the county’s population in 2005 at 89,300, a community of mostly herders and farmers.
State broadcaster CCTV said the death toll had risen to about 300, with an additional 8,000 people injured.
The China Earthquake Administration said phone lines were down, hindering rescue efforts, while workers were racing to release water from a reservoir where a crack had formed after the quake.
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