BEIJING — A series of strong earthquakes struck China’s western Qinghai Province today, toppling houses, killing at least 67 people, and burying many others in a mountainous rural area, officials and state media said.
The US Geological Survey reported on its website that a magnitude-6.9 temblor struck an area in southern Qinghai, near Tibet, this morning and was followed by three quakes in the same area.
The main quake sent residents fleeing as it toppled houses made of mud and wood, said Karsum Nyima, the Yushu County television station’s deputy head of news, speaking by phone with broadcaster CCTV.
“In a flash, the houses went down. It was a terrible earthquake,’’ he said. “In a small park, there is a Buddhist tower, and the top of the tower fell off.
“Everybody is out on the streets, standing in front of their houses, trying to find their family members,’’ he said. School buildings had not collapsed but students had been evacuated and were assembled in playgrounds, he said.
The quake hit the county of Yushu, a Tibetan area in Qinghai’s south, the official Xinhua News Agency cited the China Earthquake Networks Center as saying. The Chinese center measured the quake’s magnitude at 7.1. A local government website put the county’s population in 2005 at 89,300, a community of mostly herders and farmers.
The China Earthquake Administration announced the initial death toll in a statement on its website. Rescue efforts were hindered by telecommunications problems, the notice said.
The epicenter of the first quake was located 235 miles south-southeast of Golmud, a large city in Qinghai, at a depth of 6 miles, the US agency said.
In 2008, a magnitude-7.9 quake in Sichuan Province left almost 90,000 people dead or missing.