At 2:28 pm local time a major M 7.9 earthquake struck China near the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. 9000 people are feared dead according to Chinese news reports , but USGS analysis shows that 200,000 people were exposed to violent to extreme shaking that could cause heavy damage in well built structures and very heavy damage in vulnerable structures.
Rescuers are searching for victims.
Moreover, close to a million people lived where strong shaking could cause heavy damage in vulnerable structures. This USGS analysis suggests that early news reports many be underestimating the extent of this disaster.
The city of Chengdu, in the Sichuan basin with about 5 million inhabitants, 55 miles east of the rupture, was spared from heavy damage because the earthquake rupture propagated from the southeast to the northwest sparing the cities in the basin. However, towns near the fault rupture well to the northeast of the epicenter were hit hard even though they were as far from the epicenter as Chengdu. In an earthquake like this the distance from the epicenter may be a misleading indicator of potential damage.
NPR reporters were visiting Chengdu when the quake hit
A Horrific Scene at a Middle School in Dujiangyan
We are just leaving the horrific scene at the Juyuan Middle School outside the city of Dujiangyan. Hundreds of parents are still standing in the rain as the army works to find children trapped in the rubble. One parent told us she could hear her son calling. A scene of utter desperation. Back a couple hundred feet was an area where rescuers — peoples armed police — were bringing bodies that had been retrieved. Families were rushing over to see whether the child was theirs. Under tents are families burning incense and candles and paper money next to the shrouded bodies of their loved ones. A terrible, terrible scene.
— Andrea Hsu
For those that may have family or friends in or near Chengdu, from a comment on an NPR blog:
Please check with Consulate General of American in Chengdu.
Phone: (28) 8558-3992
Fax: (28) 8554-6229
The ACS Unit provides emergency assistance to American citizens in distress: when an American is destitute, arrested, separated from minor children, or sick. In an emergency, the Consulate Duty Officer can be reached at any time by calling 1370-800-1422.
Dial 01186 before you dial those numbers if you dial from USA.