BEIJING (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake in southwest China has killed up to 5,000 people and left as many as 10,000 injured, state media said, as hundreds of children remained trapped in at least eight collapsed schools. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed in Beichuan county of mountainous Sichuan province alone after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region during the early afternoon on Monday, Xinhua news agency said, citing the local government.
As many as 10,000 in Beichuan county were feared injured and 80 percent of the buildings there had been destroyed, the report said. Beichuan’s population is 161,000, meaning about one in 10 residents were killed or injured in the quake. The county is a part of Mianyang city, and about 160 km (100 miles) from the provincial capital, Chengdu.
The death toll was expected to rise sharply as authorities and rescue teams made contact with the worst-hit areas of Sichuan, where phone lines have been cut off since the quake struck. It is now night in the affected area, hampering rescue efforts. The quake had toppled at least eight schools and left hundreds of students and teachers trapped, state media said. About 900 teenagers were buried in the rubble of a collapsed three-storey school building in the Sichuan city of Dujiangyan.