Five people were confirmed dead in southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality on Monday afternoon after an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale toppled two school buildings and a water tower.
Four students died in Chongqing's outer Liangping County when the earthquake toppled the Wenhua Township Primary School at about 2:30 p.m. At least 100 children were injured, the local government said.
More than 10 students were injured, two seriously, at the Central Primary School of Lirang Township in Liangping County.
The neighboring Sichuan Province reported one death from a water tower collapse in Santai County, in the city of Mianyang, said Deng Changwen, a spokesman for the provincial seismological bureau.
He said more people were feared injured or dead in Sichuan as many houses had collapsed in Dujiangyan City, near the epicenter in Wenchuan County of the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, about 146 kilometers northwest of Chengdu.
The quake has paralyzed the telecom network in Aba and the number of casualties is not immediately known.
A driver with the seismological bureau, surnamed Wan, said he saw "rows of houses collapsed" on Xingfu Avenue in Dujiangyan. "At least 10 people were injured," he told Xinhua in a telephone interview.
The quake jolted most parts of China, but casualties were not immediately known.
At least one person was injured in Xunyi County of northwestern Shaanxi Province, where a building collapsed.
The Chinese Air Force has sent two helicopters to assist with relief work in the quake-stricken areas, the spokesman said.
The State Seismological Bureau also announced plans to send a team to the quake area.
The quake, the strongest to hit Sichuan Province in more than 30 years, also destroyed some houses in Zhaotong City of southwestern Yunnan Province.
"Several old houses collapsed in Zhaotong, and the telecom network broke down for several minutes," said Xu Jiajin, director of the seismological bureau in Zhaotong, which sits on the Yunnan-Sichuan border, about 270 kilometers from the epicenter.
The quake was also felt in the provincial capital Kunming, about 660 km from the epicenter.
Before the strong earthquake, the Sichuan provincial seismological bureau detected a moderate quake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale, in Mianzhu city of Deyang, near Mianyang City.
Forty-four aftershocks have been reported so far, the strongest of which measured 5.6 on the Richter scale.
Wenchuan, with a population of about 110,000, most of them are of the Qiang, Tibetan, Hui and Han ethnic groups, and an area of 4,085 square kilometers, lies in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Sichuan, China. The Min River, a major branch of the Yangtze River, runs across the county, which is home to the world-famous Wolong Giant Panda Reserve.
(Xinhua News Agency May 12, 2008)