Western China has been rocked by a powerful earthquake and strong aftershocks, which have claimed more than 500 lives. More than 10,000 people have been injured and many more people may be trapped in damaged buildings.
The earthquake struck the western Chinese province of Qinghai early Wednesday, collapsing buildings in villages around the region.
The China Earthquake Administration estimates the quake as being a 7.1 magnitude, while the U.S. Geological Survey puts it at 6.9.
The quake struck just before 8 in the morning in the mountainous and remote western area, which divides Qinghai Province and Tibet.
A second strong quake struck about five minutes later, state media say, destroying 85 percent of the buildings in one township near the epicenter.
School children are among those reported as trapped and many injured people can be seen in the street with bleeding head wounds.
An Armed Police Detachment Commander in Qinghai, Shi Huajie, told Chinese state TV some 600 rescuers are scrambling to save the many people he says are buried in Yushu County. But he says a lack of organization is slowing their efforts.
Shi says the earthquake stuck when many people were still a sleep - and he says the rescue effort is also being hampered by the lack of heavy lifting equipment.
Telecommunications have been disrupted and roads from the nearest airport are reported to be badly damaged.
Rescue equipment is being rushed to the high altitude area.
The quake comes nearly two years after the massive western Sichuan earthquake, which claimed at least 68,000 lives. That quake sparked angry protests among residents who said the poor quality of buildings was to blame for the large number of casualties, especially children who died when their schools collapsed.
Did you witness the Qinghai quake? Send your photos for publication by e-mailing them to VOAUserPics.email@example.com.