China Earthquake Leaves 9,000 Dead

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck central China Sunday, killing nearly 9,000 people, trapping about 900 students under rubble and creating a toxic chemical leak. The quake, is the largest in decades, and could be felt as far as Vietnam and Thailand.

The quakes hit 60 miles northwest of Chengdu, in the middle of the afternoon, and was followed by several smaller aftershocks. The most damage occurred in a hilly region, full of small cities and towns. According to the Xinhua News Agency, 8.533 people died in Sichuan province and about 200 were killed in three other provinces and the densely populated city of Chongqing.

In Sichuan province, reports speculated that nearly 80 percent of the buildings collapsed after the quake. Because of this, the death toll is slowly rising.

A chemical plant in the city of Shifang fell during the earthquake, burying hundreds of people and spilling more than 80 tons of toxic liquid ammonia from the building.

It is still unknown what effects the quake has had on the panda population in China. Around 1,200 of the endangered Pandas live in the mountainous region of Sichuan, which is nearly 80 percent of the surviving wild population in China.

The quake hit the giant panda preserve and breeding center at the Wolong Nature Reserve, in Wenchuan County. The reserve remains cut off, and the live online video feed that shows the activities of the pandas is still down.

This is the first significant earthquake in China since 2003, when a 6.8 magnitude quake killed 268 people in Bachu County in the west of Sinjiang. China's deadliest earthquake on record occurred on July 28, 1976 and killed 240,000 people.

This weekend's earthquake was felt in Beijing, which lies 930 miles north of the epicenter, but it did not damage any of the Olympic venues. The main stadium for the Olympics, which can seat up to 91,000 people, is designed to withstand an 8.0 magnitude quake.

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