International

Rescue Efforts Under Way In Western China After Quakes; Hundreds Killed

Searchers are using their hands to dig through rubble in a remote part of China's western Qinghai province, where at least 400 people were killed and many others remain unaccounted for after a series of strong earthquakes:

The U.S. Geological Survey says the initial temblor's magnitude was 6.9. It happened at 7:49 p.m. ET Tuesday (7:49 a.m. today in Qinghai). There have been several other quakes, one of them a 5.8 in magnitude.

According to the BBC, "most of the buildings in the worst-hit town of Jiegu were wrecked, and landslides have cut off roads. Police said hundreds of survivors had already been pulled from the rubble. And at least one aid flight had been able to land at the local airport, according to officials."

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing that the area is sparsely populated, mostly by Tibetans. Thousands of tents, winter coats and blankets are being flown to the area, he adds:

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Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. The latest AP story begins this way:

"A series of strong earthquakes struck a mountainous Tibetan area of western China on Wednesday, killing at least 400 people and injuring more than 10,000 as houses made of mud and wood collapsed, officials said. Many more people were trapped and the toll was expected to rise."

Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. On Morning Edition, NPR's Louisa Lim spoke with host Steve Inskeep about the region where the earthquake hit. She traveled there last year and says "it is very remote ... difficult to get to ... (and) very high up, about 12,000 feet." And, "life is very tough, even at the best of times," she adds:

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Louisa has also been using Twitter today to post some news about the earthquake. She's pointed, for example, to this webpage where some photos have been posted.

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