Beijing: Over 200 people were killed and 11,500 others injured in the devastating 7-magnitude earthquake in southwest China, which continued to be rocked by hundreds of aftershocks on Sunday, while relief teams made frantic efforts to save hundreds trapped under tonnes of rubble. After suffering the shallow quake on Friday, the Lushan county battered by over 1,300 tremors.
The severest aftershocks measured as high as 5.4 magnitude, jolting the area badly from the depth of 17 kms. Death toll continued to mount throughout the day as relief teams spread to remote areas and sifted though the rubble to rescue people trapped under the debris. State media say 207 people are dead or missing after the quake, and 11,500 are injured, 960 of them seriously. The quake in Sichuan province, second in five years, sparked off a debate whether there should be high density human settlements in the areas as it is very prone to recurring quakes.
Sichuan is located on the foothills of Tibetan plateau and known to be prone to heavy earthquakes as it sits right over the place where the tectonic Euroasian and Indian plates meet, often colliding with huge force. Over 90,000 people were killed in 2008 quake in the province which virtually ravaged the area. Its neighbouring province, Qinghai witnessed yet another heavy quake in 2010, causing several deaths and massive destruction.
Politically Saturday's earthquake also turned out to be a major test for China's new leadership headed by President Xi Jinping, which took over power a month ago. Under pressure to prove its mettle, the new government mounted relief operations on a war footing mobilizing thousands of soldiers and relief teams.
Following the footsteps of his predecessor, Wen Jiabao, new Premier Li Keqiang rushed to the affected areas about five hours after the quake struck and stayed over night in Ya'an city, the worst hit area and returned on Sunday afternoon.