Chinese officials are rushing aid to the western part of the country after a powerful earthquake Wednesday that killed at least 400 people and injured more than 10,000 in the mountainous Tibetan Plateau.
The 6.9 magnitude quake toppled buildings, destroyed roads and knocked out power and phone lines in Qinghai province, which borders Tibet. The quake was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, the largest with a magnitude of 6.3. The main quake was centered in the ethnic Tibetan county of Yushu, in the southern part of Qinghai.
Rescuers are working to dig out those trapped in rubble. Hundreds of troops have been dispatched to the region to assist in the effort.
The state-run Xinhua news agency says President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local authorities to go all out to save those affected.
With many people forced outside into cold temperatures, the Qinghai government said it is rushing 5,000 tents and 100,000 coats and blankets to the region.
But a local police commander in Qinghai (Shi Huajie) told Chinese Central Television that authorities lack the proper equipment to respond to the disaster.
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, issued a statement saying he is deeply saddened by the loss of life and is exploring how he can contribute to relief efforts.
Xinhua quoted a local official in Qinghai as saying more than 85 percent of houses have collapsed in Yushu county's main town of Jiegu, known to Tibetans as Gyegu. The official, identified as Zhuohuaxia, said large cracks have appeared on buildings that are still standing.
The quake also caused school buildings to collapse, burying some students. Xinhua reported that at least five students were killed at a primary school.
Officials described the streets as filled with panicked people, many of them bleeding from their injuries. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the injured, with both doctors and supplies lacking.
A crack in a reservoir in the disaster area is causing concern, with workers racing to prevent a potential flood.
Xinhua quoted officials in Qinghai as saying more than 5,000 rescuers are being dispatched to the area, and that about 700 soldiers have been sent to look for survivors. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu also was headed the region.
The China Earthquake Administration, the Red Cross and authorities in neighboring provinces have also dispatched rescuers, though damaged roads could make it difficult for them to get into the area. Forecasters are predicting strong winds and sleet in Yushu in the coming days, which could hamper rescue efforts. More aftershocks also are expected.
Yushu county has a population of about 100,000 people, most of them herders and farmers. Many of the houses and buildings in the area are made of mud and wood.
The U.S. Geological Survey says the powerful quake was centered 240 kilometers north of Qamdo prefecture, which borders China's Sichuan province. Just two years ago, a massive 7.9 magnitude quake hit Sichuan, killing nearly 90,000 people.
The China Earthquake Administration estimated the magnitude of Wednesday's quake at 7.1, slightly higher than the U.S. Geological Survey reported.