Violent shakes have leveled a remote town, and people and cars have been buried by debris after a major earthquake rocked Sichuan Province in southwest China on Monday, according to eyewitnesses.
A man who works in Chengdu told Xinhua that his hometown in Shazhou Township in the northern border of Sichuan was almost flattened. He had spoken to his father, who is in Shazhou, over the phone.
"We were passing by the Jushui town, and we saw a huge landslide," a man from Mianzhu City, about 60 kilometers to quake center Wenchuan, told Xinhua over the phone. He was on his way to visit a friend in Anxian county in the northeast Monday afternoon.
"Rocks buried many houses down at the foot of the hill, and some of the vehicles on the road were buried too. I saw the rear of a car and the wheels of another. Several people were crying for help and some were bleeding," he said.
A nurse at the forestry center in the Aba prefecture asked reporters to take photos of a boy with scratches on his face to help find his relatives. The nurse said his parents were suspected to have died in the quake.
The quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck Sichuan, including the capital Chengdu, around 2:30 p.m. on Monday. The epicenter of the quake was in Wenchuan, about 159 kilometers northwest of Chengdu.
"Wenchuan is located at a major fault line. This was really big-scale fracture, and the destruction was grave," said Che Shi, an official with the China Seismological Bureau.
Local authorities said the quakes have left more than 7,651 people dead in Sichuan alone. Water, electricity and transportation were seriously affected in the province. The massive quake is believed to be the deadliest quake to strike China since the Tangshan earthquake in 1976, which claimed 242,000 lives.
By Monday midnight, at least 24,000 troops have arrived by air in the quake-hit zones for rescue operations, and another 10,000 were on the way by rails.
In Dujiangyan city, about 100 kilometers from Wenchuan, some of the residential buildings seemed to have been axed, and refrigerators, television sets and other furniture were left rumbled in the debris.
In Shiyou Road in Dujiangyan, Xinhua reporters saw on Monday afternoon at least four buildings flattened, and people were digging frantically into the wreckages. At least 50 school children were confirmed dead at a school in the city.
Deep into the night, many residents in Chengdu spent the nights in streets, and cars queue at some of the petrol stations, as people fear shortage of petrol.
Rail traffic has been partially resumed and jammed or disrupted mobile communications were returning to normal.
The Sichuan Provincial health department has sent 24 medical teams to Wenchuan, Mianzhu and Shifang, worse hit than capital Chengdu. More than 100 helicopters were sent to Mianyang, Deyang and Dujiangyan to transport the injured.
The Ministry of Health, the neighboring municipality Chongqing and the army have also dispatched medical workers to Sichuan.