The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 20, 2013

Strong quake jolts China's Sichuan, killing 156

(Continued)

Chengdu's airport shut down for about an hour before reopening, though many flights were canceled or delayed, and its railway station halted dozens of scheduled train rides Saturday, state media said.

Lushan reported the most deaths, but there was concern that casualties in neighboring Baoxing county might have been under-reported because of inaccessibility after roads were blocked and power and phone services cut off.

As the region went into the first night after the quake, rain started to fall, slowing rescue work. Forecasts called for more rain in the next several days, and the China Meteorological Administration warned of possible landslides and other geological disasters.

Tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back as aftershocks continued to jolt the region.

Lushan, where the quake struck, lies where the fertile Sichuan plain meets foothills that eventually rise to the Tibetan plateau and sits atop the Longmenshan fault. It was along that fault line that a devastating magnitude-7.9 quake struck on May 12, 2008, leaving more than 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead in one of the worst natural disasters to strike China in recent decades.

"It was just like May 12," Liu Xi, a writer in Ya'an city, who was jolted awake by Saturday's quake, said via a private message on his account on Sina Corporation's Twitter-like Weibo service. "All the home decorations fell at once, and the old house cracked."

The official Xinhua News Agency said the well-known Bifengxia panda preserve, which is near Lushan, was not affected by the quake. Dozens of pandas were moved to Bifengxia from another preserve, Wolong, after its habitat was wrecked by the 2008 quake.

As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others — 7,000 people by Saturday afternoon — sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. Two soldiers died after the vehicle that they and more than a dozen others were in slipped off the road and rolled down a cliff, state media reported.

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