Some 300 people are feared dead after a rapid series of strong earthquakes hit a mountainous and impoverished area of China’s Qinghai province early Wednesday, according to state-run television CCTV.
CCTV reported 8,000 others were injured and many people, including primary schoolchildren, were buried under debris after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck at 7:49 a.m. local time (7:49 p.m. ET Tuesday), when many people were probably still at home and schools were beginning the day.
The USGS also recorded several strong aftershocks — one of magnitude 5.8 — all within hours of the first quake.
“We have to mainly rely on our hands to clear away the debris as we have no large excavating machines,” police officer Shi Huajie told the Xinhua News Agency. “We have no medical equipment, either.”
A Chinese military official told Xinhua that the death toll was expected to rise, given the damage to homes.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs plans to distribute 5,000 tents, 50,000 coats and 50,000 quilts to the earthquake zone, Xinhua said.
The epicenter was located in remote and rugged terrain, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Qamdo, Tibet. Qinghai borders the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xingjiang and the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan.
Xinhua said the quake hit the prefecture of Yushu, a Tibetan region of Qinghai with about 80,000 people.
More than 85 percent of the houses in the county seat of Jiegu, had collapsed, a prefecture official told Xinhua.