Quake leaves at least 250 dead in China

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of villagers were killed and a thousand injured in a powerful earthquake in the Pamir mountains on China's North-western border with Kyrgyzstanyesterday morning.

Hundreds of villagers were killed and a thousand injured in a powerful earthquake in the Pamir mountains on China's North-western border with Kyrgyzstanyesterday morning.

As the first rescuers reached Bachu county, near the epicentre, the official death toll quickly climbed to 257. At least 10 of the victims were children attending the county school, which collapsed.

A Kashgar official, who did not wish to be named, said: "Some people are holding funerals in accordance with Uighur [Muslim] tradition, while rescue workers are attending to the injured. The place is in complete chaos."

The official Xinhua news agency said more than a thousand buildings had collapsed and that tremors from the quake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, were felt in Kashgar, a Silk Road oasis town. Abuliti, a bank clerk, said: "It was very frightening. The earthquake happened when I was riding my bicycle. I've never experienced this before."

Zhou Mingcheng, the owner of a flour mill in Arlagen village in Bachu county, and his family escaped from their home as it collapsed. "We were sleeping at the time, and it was still dark. We ran out immediately when it began to shake," Zhou said. "There is no electricity. Lots of people are outside now and no one dares stay at home."

Xinhua said the earthquake struck at 10am and was the biggest to hit the region in 50 years. The epicentre was in the sparsely populated Jiashi county, but villages in Bachu county, with a total population of 370,000, were hardest hit.

Officials in the provincial capital of Ürümqi have started sending grain, milk and blankets to the region, where temperatures hover around freezing point. An aid convoy with tents and blankets will reach the area within 24 hours.

Most inhabitants are ethnic Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims. Others are Kazakh and Kyrgyz herders. Zhang Yong, of the Xinjiang Seismological Bureau, said the death toll was unusually high for an earthquake in the region.

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