A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Sichuan province yesterday (May 12), killing an estimated 12,000 people according to official sources, with the number expected to rise. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Lungu County (Ch: Wenchuan), Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Aba) in Sichuan Province (the Tibetan area of Amdo).
The quake struck approximately 56 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu, leaving 45 dead and almost 600 injured in the city of over 11 million. Residents have been reported sleeping outside due to the fear of aftershocks. Reports from the Chinese city of Dujiangyan, located between Chengdu and the epicenter in Lungu County, have told of buildings in rubble and bodies in the streets. When contacted, Kham Aid Foundation, an aid organization working in eastern Tibetan areas, reported receiving information that houses in Guza have collapsed.
According to the Chinese state run Xinhua news agency, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has ordered rescue workers to have the roads leading to Lungu County cleared before midnight Tuesday (Xinhua, May 13, 2008). Information from the epicenter region has been difficult to obtain as roads leading to the area have been blocked due to mudslides and damage caused by the earthquake. Phone lines have also been cut. Rescue work has been hampered by heavy rains in the region. According to Xinhua, Wen Jiabao has ordered the Chinese military to air-lift medical and food supplies to the region, though the full extent of the damage is still unknown. Early reports from soldiers who made it to Lungu have reported heavy casualties, according to Xinhua (Xinhua, May 13, 2008).
In a statement released today, the Dalai Lama expressed his “deep sympathy and heartfelt condolences to those families who have been directly affected by the strong earthquake” and “prayers for those who have lost their lives and those injured in the quake.”
Damage from the earthquake has been reported across several provinces, including Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi, Yunnan, Shanxi, Guizhou and Hubei, and is reported to have been felt as far away as Beijing and Shanghai.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake is the strongest in the area since a magnitude 8.6 earthquake killed 1,526 people in Tibet in 1950.