10,000 Dead in China Quake, More Feared
UPDATE: 6:04 p.m. EDT May 12, Death toll reaches 10,000
Chinese authorities estimate 10,000 deaths in Sichuan province alone. The earthquake was felt as far as away as Vietnam.
The report came as Premier Wen Jiabao warned that rescuers faced huge obstacles reaching the area worst-hit by the quake that struck on Monday afternoon.
Monday's quake occurred on a fault where South Asia pushes against the Eurasian land mass, smashing the Sichuan plain into mountains leading to the Tibetan highlands - near communities that held sometimes violent protests of Chinese rule in mid-March.
Much of the area has been closed to foreign media and travelers since then, compounding the difficulties of getting information. Roads north from Chengdu to the disaster area were sealed off early Tuesday to all but emergency convoys.
The quake was the deadliest since one in 1976 in the city of Tangshan near Beijing that killed 240,000 - although some reports say as many as 655,000 perished - the most devastating in modern history. A 1933 quake near where Monday's struck killed at least 9,000, according to geologists.
UPDATE: 11:43 a.m. EDT May 12, Death toll rises to 8,533
AP reports 8,533 deaths from the Sichuan region (epicentre of the quake).
The official Xinhua News Agency said 8,533 people died in Sichuan and dozens of other deaths were reported elsewhere.
A chemical plant collapsed in Shifang city, to the northeast of the quake's epicenter, burying hundreds of people and sending more than 80 tons of toxic liquid ammonia leaking from the site, state media reported.
UPDATE: 10:53 a.m. EDT May 12, Thousands dead in Earthquake
Chinese authorities have reported 7,600 deaths from a powerful earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in the Sichuan region. Many more deaths are feared.
Maps of the affected regions from the USGS Earthquake Center can be found here
A massive earthquake struck central China on Monday, killing more than 7,600 people and trapping nearly 900 students under the rubble of their school, state media reported.
The official Xinhua News Agency said 80 percent of the buildings had collapsed in Beichuan county in Sichuan province after the 7.8-magnitude quake, raising fears the overall death toll could increase sharply.
Xinhua cited the Sichuan provincial government as saying 7,651 people died, but the situation in at least two counties remain unclear....
The earthquake also rattled buildings in Beijing, some 930 miles to the north, less than three months before the Chinese capital was expected to be full of hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors for the Summer Olympics.
Many Beijing office towers were evacuated, including the building housing the media offices for the organizers of the Olympics, which start in August. None of the Olympic venues was damaged.
There were harrowing reports from the scene of a school collapse in Dujiangyan city - about 100km (60 miles) from the epicentre - where 900 students were buried and 50 dead.
Teenagers buried beneath the rubble of the three-storey Juyuan Middle School building were struggling to break free, while others were crying out for help, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Parents were watching as cranes excavated the site. Villagers rushed to help with the rescue.
Two girls said they escaped because they had "run faster than others".
While the region experienced power-outages and telephone service failures, people were able to access the Internet and first-hand reports have come in through blogs, video-sharing sites and twitter.
For first-hand accounts, Danwei.org noted this link to Summize.com, a Twitter search engine that supports Chinese characters.
English-language twitter posts are also aggregated here.
Global Voices reports that:
Twitter seems to be a top source of breaking details for the moment; Many are writing of difficulties connecting to those at the center of the quake zone over telephone, but the internet seems to still be functioning. Beijing-based tech guru Kaiser Kuo writes that the government Seismological Bureau website is currently inaccessible, presumably from high levels of traffic.
Inwalkedbud writes from Chengdu, quite near the center of the earthquake: “Doesn't seem to be much damage to buildings, but people are shaken up. Electricity/water/gas seems to be working still.”
First-hand accounts reports are streaming in from the Chinese microblog service Fanfou:
"Wenchuan is on the way to Jiuzaigou; the terrain there is all craggy mountains. Due to excess ore extraction all surface plants have been damaged and then you have the Min River passing through there, creating great risk of mudslides and making this an easy place for geological disasters to happen. This has been tragic."
"Soon this will have been bigger than the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. Right now the busiest most nervous department putting in the most extra shifts isn't the Seismological Bureau, not the Disaster Relief Squads, it's the Central Propaganda Department."
"Flowerpots and everything are broken in Mianyang, water coolers shaking, many houses have collapsed, everybody has gone to the banks of the river."
Shanghaiist also provided very detailed coverage of incoming reports on the earthquake here.
In the midst of the chaos and wreckage, an odd-story emerged. Apparently,
Thousands of toads escape onto the streets of Taizhou, Jiangsu Province, apparently because of lack of oxygen in the river waters.
Maps of the affected regions from the USGS Earthquake Center can be found here.