Earthquake in central China kills 15, injures more than 450

Zhang Xuping and his family dashed out of their home as soon as they felt the ground shaking. Minutes later, their neighbor was killed and buildings near them collapsed as a strong earthquake rolled through their village in central China.

"I felt very strong shocks, lasting about six to seven seconds," Zhang said in a telephone interview on Sunday, one day after the temblor stuck, killing at least 15 people and injuring more than 450 others in two provinces. "We fled immediately."

The official Xinhua News Agency said the magnitude-5.7 quake was centered in Ruichang city in Jiangxi province, near the border with Hubei province. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake had a magnitude of 5.5. There was no immediate explanation of the discrepancy.

State television reported Sunday that there had been 200 aftershocks but did not give any details. Most of the damage occurred in Ruichang and in the popular resort town of Jiujiang, it said. At least 14 people were killed and another 377 were injured there, Xinhua said.

In Hubei, one person died and 81 were injured, including 78 students who were caught in a stampede during an evacuation, Xinhua said. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed and thousands damaged, the agency said.

The government appears to be placing increasing emphasis on reassuring the public that the leaders are looking out for the people. Such efforts to boost public morale come amid rising discontent over official corruption and a widening wealth gap between booming cities and the poverty-stricken countryside.

Zhang, 42, said his home in a village near Ruichang had cracks running down the walls. Authorities told villagers not to stay indoors on Saturday but had not provided any more information or assistance since, he said. The weather Sunday was sunny and not too cold, Zhang said. Weather reports put the temperatures in the region at around 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). State television on Sunday showed scores of residents camped out in bright blue tents. Some were huddled in sleeping bags while others sat on chairs outside.

A total of 30,000 boxes each of bottled water, instant noodles and biscuits were delivered to the worst-hit areas, the newscast said. It showed rows of crumbled brick buildings and deep cracks in the walls of buildings still standing in Ruichang, the AP reports.

A front page photo in the Beijing Morning Post showed dozens of people cramped into a hospital ward, most of them lying in bed, heavily bandaged and surrounded by doctors and visitors.


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