Beijing, Feb. 24 (Reuters): A devastating earthquake shook western China today, killing at least 257 people, injuring more than 1,000 and flattening homes, schools and other buildings near the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar.
People’s Liberation Army soldiers and rescue workers combed the rubble for injured and dead from the mid-morning quake which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. The quake — according to Xinhua news agency the deadliest to hit Xinjiang since the Communists took power in 1949 — rocked the dry desert region bordering Central Asian states at 0203 GMT, officials said. The epicentre was in sparsely populated Jiashi, 150 km east of Kashgar. Officials said Bachu county, further east, and its 370,000 residents suffered most.
Hours after the quake, aftershocks rattled nerves, forcing villagers outdoors in near-freezing temperatures — afraid to venture into their homes for fear of further damage.
Relatives of victims in the predominantly Muslim region began funeral rites for the dead as officials in the regional capital Urumqi organised relief shipments.