The 6.9 Magnitude earthquake shook Yushu in southern Quinghai province in western China on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 23:49:38 UTC, 7:49 AM local time. This area is near Tibet, 1200 miles SW of Bejing. 1,144 people have been confirmed dead with 11,474 injured. Many building were completely destroyed. Residents are either afraid to spend the night in their homes, or have no homes left to return to. 15,000 houses were destroyed. Three days after the quake, tents and other aid is being distributed by the Chinese government. There were some complaints that aid was slow to arrive.
One thing that makes the rescue efforts more difficult is the high altitude, over 13,000 feet. Rescue workers from other parts of China are limited by the unaccustomed thin air. Nighttime temperatures have been dropping below freezing, with forecasts of wind and sleet. There is a small airport but it does not have refueling facilities. Planes must carry fuel for the round trip, which limits their cargo capacity.
Yushu is on the Tibetan Plateau and is populated by Tibetans. The 800 year old Taklung monastery was so badly damaged that rescue teams were unable to work there because of the danger from further collapse. The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, visited the site and promised to rebuild the monastery. Monks have been prominent in the rescue effort.
This quake occurred in the interior of the Tibetan Plateau, which is being lifted and pushed to the east by the force of the collision between India and Asia. Over the past few million years, the Indian Subcontinent has been propelled across the Indian Ocean and slammed into southern Asia. The force of this collision has raised the Himalayan mountains along with the Tibetan Plateau behind them. This quake is the result of adjustments within the earth's crust as a result of the pressure of the collision a few hundred miles to the south.
(See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.) The US Geological Survey (USGS) is an invaluable resource in understanding and tracking earthquakes. See the USGS summary of this quake.
See also the following news stories:
*Chinese rescue effort builds after Quinghai quake (BBC 4/16/10)
*Earthquake survivors in Tibet mourn loss of treasured heritage (Guardian 4/16/10)
*China quake death toll passes 1,000 (BBC 4-16-10)
*In Pictures: China's quake (BBC)