At least 100 people were injured, three of them seriously, during an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale that rattled a sparsely populated central-eastern part of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region early on Wednesday.
Cracks could be clearly seen in many houses.
Hundreds of school or hospital buildings at the epicenter and surrounding areas were seriously damaged, but no deaths were reported as of late Thursday, according to an unnamed official with the Inner Mongolian disaster-relief department.
Soldiers are helping to deliver relief goods and medical supplies to the nine hardest-hit villages and towns.
More than 2,500 personnel from the local reserve forces are working with the soldiers stationed nearby to help the quake victims.
Some 40 percent of the residences in and around the epicenter suffered damage, according to reports reaching Beijing Thursday.
The local government has reportedly allocated 660,000 yuan (US$79,500) for rescue and relief operations.
The epicenter is in a vast pastureland area with a population of 140,000. Most of the homes there are brick-and-wood sheds, said sources with the China Seismological Bureau.
“By Thursday, 15 aftershocks measuring up to 3.5 on the Richter scale were monitored following the major shock - the strongest of its type this year in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Experts are tracking the situation, investigating and verifying the damage the quake caused,” said Zeng Guoping, an official with Inner Mongolia’s regional seismological bureau. “We should have basic reports on the situation in the next day or so.”
Experts say that it is unlikely that another quake measuring over 5.5 will hit the area within 24 hours, although quakes of 5.0 or below are possible.
But Zeng points out, “That is only an internal prediction made by a few experts.” He says that no one can deny a strong aftershock could occur in the days ahead.
(China Daily March 26, 2004)