In this image from a mobile phone, rescuers work at a destroyed building after an earthquake hit China
A powerful earthquake in northwest China killed at least 67 people and left many others buried under debris early Wednesday, the state said.
The quake, which struck at 7:49 a.m. in Qinghai Province, was reported as having a magnitude of 7.1 by China’s earthquake administration. The United States Geological Survey recorded it as 6.9.
According to Xinhua, the earthquake struck 240 miles southeast of Golmud, a town of about 130,000 on the Tibetan plateau. Golmud is perhaps best known as the site of the world’s largest salt lake.
The China Earthquake Networks Center said epicenter had been in Yushu County, an area sparsely populated with farmers and herders, mostly ethnic Tibetans.
China National Radio said that 90 percent of the homes in the area had collapsed but that schools and government buildings had largely remained standing.
Karsum Nyima, an employee of a local television station in Yushu, told the national broadcaster, CCTV, that the early morning quake had sent people running into the streets.
“All of a sudden, the houses collapsed,” he said. “It was a terrible earthquake. In the park, a Buddhist pagoda fell off. Everyone is in the street in front of their houses. They are trying to find family members.”
In the same broadcast, Wu Yong, an officer with the Chinese army, said that the road to the airport was impassable and that soldiers were digging out people from collapsed homes by hand. “The most important thing now is that this place is far from everything, with few accessible rescue troops available,” said. “I feel like the number of dead and injured will keep going up.”
State news media reported that 3,000 troops would be sent to the area to assist in rescue efforts.
Last August, Golmud was hit by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed dozens of homes but caused no deaths. Qinghai is an ethnic melting pot of Tibetans, Mongols and Han Chinese. It is adjacent to Sichuan Province, where 87,000 people died in a powerful earthquake in 2008.