Quake leaves at least 250 dead in China
By Jasper Becker in Beijing
25 February 2003
Hundreds of villagers were killed and a thousand
injured in a powerful earthquake in the Pamir
mountains on China's North-western border with
As the first rescuers reached Bachu county, near the
epicentre, the official death toll quickly climbed to
257. At least 10 of the victims were children
attending the county school, which collapsed.
A Kashgar official, who did not wish to be named,
said: "Some people are holding funerals in accordance
with Uighur [Muslim] tradition, while rescue workers
are attending to the injured. The place is in complete
The official Xinhua news agency said more than a
thousand buildings had collapsed and that tremors from
the quake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale,
were felt in Kashgar, a Silk Road oasis town. Abuliti,
a bank clerk, said: "It was very frightening. The
earthquake happened when I was riding my bicycle. I've
never experienced this before."
Zhou Mingcheng, the owner of a flour mill in Arlagen
village in Bachu county, and his family escaped from
their home as it collapsed. "We were sleeping at the
time, and it was still dark. We ran out immediately
when it began to shake," Zhou said. "There is no
electricity. Lots of people are outside now and no one
dares stay at home."
Xinhua said the earthquake struck at 10am and was the
biggest to hit the region in 50 years. The epicentre
was in the sparsely populated Jiashi county, but
villages in Bachu county, with a total population of
370,000, were hardest hit.
Officials in the provincial capital of Ürümqi have
started sending grain, milk and blankets to the
region, where temperatures hover around freezing
point. An aid convoy with tents and blankets will
reach the area within 24 hours.
Most inhabitants are ethnic Uighurs, Turkic-speaking
Muslims. Others are Kazakh and Kyrgyz herders. Zhang
Yong, of the Xinjiang Seismological Bureau, said the
death toll was unusually high for an earthquake in the
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