Chinese authorities say a 7.8 magnitude earthquake has killed more than 10,000 people in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Local officials say at least 80 percent of the buildings there have collapsed, and 10,000 more people are feared injured VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
The large earthquake struck after midday. The epicenter was 90 kilometers from the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu.
The Vice Director of the Sichuan Earthquake Bureau, Deng Changwen, spoke to China Central TV by phone.
He said the large earthquake cut all communication to the disaster area, hampering official attempts to determine the real situation.
In one example, the official Xinhua News Agency says more than 900 students were buried when their high school collapsed in Dujiangyan, about 100 kilometers from the quake's epicenter.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao immediately flew to the affected areas, to oversee disaster relief efforts. He said Chinese government leaders will stand at the front lines of disaster relief work and unite with the people to overcome what he called a "very large disaster."
He says Chinese leaders are not afraid of sacrificing their lives or of fatigue.*
Chinese troops have been dispatched to help with disaster relief work.
The powerful quake was felt as far away as Beijing, 1500 kilometers to the north, as well as in Bangkok, Thailand 3300 kilometers to the south.
Tremors were also felt in the east coast metropolis, Shanghai, where authorities temporarily evacuated China's tallest building, the Jinmao Tower. In other parts of China, buildings swayed and some even collapsed.
Chinese authorities say the quake did not affect the Three Gorges Dam, which is several hundred kilometers away from Chengdu.
The hardest hit county, Wenchuan, has more than 110,000 people and a large ethnic-Tibetan population. Wenchuan County is also home to the Wolong Nature Reserve, China's leading research and breeding base for endangered giant pandas.
In 1976, more than 270,000 people died when an earthquake struck the northern city of Tangshan. That temblor also measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.
* - Corrected 15 May 08 - Quote was originally mis-translated as "making mistakes" instead of "fatigue".