Earthquake Rocks China's Sichuan Province A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit China's Sichuan province on Monday, killing thousands. As many as 80 percent of the buildings in one county in the region have collapsed.

Earthquake Rocks China's Sichuan Province

Earthquake Rocks China's Sichuan Province

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Map of the earthquake's reach. Alice Kreit/NPR hide caption

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Alice Kreit/NPR

Map of the earthquake's reach.

Alice Kreit/NPR

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit China's Sichuan province on Monday, killing thousands. As many as 80 percent of the buildings in one county in the region have collapsed.

NPR's Melissa Block, who is traveling from the capital of the province, Chengdu, to the hardest-hit area to the northwest, says the roads are jammed with people. Fears of aftershocks have led many to camp outdoors for the night as radio reports urge people not to go back inside.

"Mostly, what you see are crowds and crowds of people alongside the road. It's now ... the middle of the night, and people are outside. I've seen people playing cards along the highway," she tells Alex Chadwick. "No one wants to be inside."

The quake hit at around 2:30 p.m. local time Monday. In Chengdu, buildings began to shake and rumble and people ran out into the streets, Block says.

"As we were walking through the city to try to get back across town, we saw patients from a hospital who'd been evacuated out into the street," she says. "We saw some people who had been injured by falling debris — a man with a big gash on his head, another woman whose foot was badly injured and was being carried on a friend's back to try to get medical help."

Gas lines were cut off because of concerns about aftershocks and there were reports of water-main breaks, but Block reports that Chengdu came through "remarkably unscathed." However, there are reports of devastation in the harder-hit areas. Communication in the region has been difficult.