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Nearly 8,700 Dead From Powerful Quake in China

  • VOA News

Chinese authorities say a powerful earthquake has killed nearly 87-hundred people in the western part of the country.

The official Xinhua news agency says more than 85-hundred people have died in Sichuan province alone, and more than 200 in three other provinces and the city of Chongqing.

Authorities estimate that three-to-five thousand of those deaths occurred in Sichuan's Beichuan county. Local officials say at least 80 percent of the buildings there have collapsed, and 10-thousand more people are feared injured.

Beichuan is about 160 kilometers north of Sichuan's capital, Chengdu.

There has been little word from the epicenter of the quake, Wenchuan county, home to more than 100-thousand people. Xinhua says roads leading to the county have been destroyed, and storms have prevented military rescue helicopters from reaching the site.

Xinhua says at least 30 people are dead there, but there is no further information.

Elsewhere in Sichuan, reports say nearly 900 students were buried when a high school collapsed in a township (Dujiangyan) near the epicenter. Xinhua says at least 50 bodies have been recovered from the rubble.

Two chemical plants in Sichuan also have been damaged, burying hundreds of people and forcing the evacuation of several thousand others.

The United States and the United Nations have offered condolences to victims of the tragedy and both say they are willing to help in any way possible.

The seven-point-eight magnitude quake hit in the afternoon local time (0628 UTC Monday) and was felt as far away as Taiwan and Bangkok. The U.S. Geological Survey says the epicenter was 92 kilometers northwest of Chengdu in Wenchuan county.

Premier Wen Jiabao has arrived in Sichuan to oversee rescue efforts.

Speaking with state media on a flight to quake-hit areas, Mr. Wen described the quake as a major disaster and he called for calm. Thousands of police and soldiers have been sent to disaster areas to help with recovery and rescue efforts.

In Beijing, the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics, 15-hundred kilometers from the quake's epicenter, buildings swayed and people were evacuated into the streets, but there was no damage reported.

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