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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Hans’

Rescuers gather bodies after southwest China quake kills 13

August 09, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Rescuers picked away rubble from around a body in an area shaken by a powerful earthquake in mountainous southwestern China, then stood silently in a row, with helmets off and heads bowed to pay their respects.

Tuesday night’s magnitude 6.5 quake killed at least 13 people and injured 175, authorities said Wednesday. It also knocked out power and phone networks, complicating efforts to locate and evacuate survivors.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed footage of orange-suited rescuers finding the body and using detectors to search for survivors in the dark of night, carrying a girl to safety and leading other people along a rubble-strewn road.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for rapid efforts to respond to the disaster, which struck a quake-prone region bordered by Sichuan and Gansu provinces at around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and home to many Tibetan and other ethnic minority villages. It’s also near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations that attracts visitors from China and overseas.

Among the injured, 28 were listed in serious condition on Wednesday morning, according to the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture government in Sichuan. At least five of the dead were tourists, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Hong Kong’s immigration department said one of the city’s residents was missing in the quake.

A Canadian woman suffered a slight head injury and a Frenchman was wounded in both legs and needed surgery to remove stone fragments, according to Xinhua. It said Frenchman Maxence Vallon, 18, was staying with his mother and brother at a hotel in Jiuzhaigou.

They were seeking shelter outside “when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg,” said Romain Vallon, who studies in Beijing. The dead included a performer in an arts group who was buried in the quake and found Wednesday morning. She and others had been performing in Jiuzhaigou when the quake struck. According to the Legal Evening News, they were acting out a scene about a deadly 2008 earthquake that struck nearby and killed nearly 90,000 people. When the quake hit, the performers ran off the stage in terror and the audience thought the tremor was part of the show.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.5, striking at a shallow depth of just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones. The China Earthquake Networks Center said the quake had at magnitude of 7.0 and a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

It’s not unusual for magnitude and depth readings to vary due to different technologies in use and the timing and distance from where quakes are measured. The earthquake’s epicenter was about 39 kilometers (24 miles) from the county seat of Jiuzhaigou, which has a population of around 80,000, and was 285 kilometers (177 miles) from Chengdu, Sichuan’s densely populated provincial capital, according to the Chinese quake center.

Xinhua said strong tremors could be felt in Chengdu and other cities in the area. Jiuzhaigou county lost electricity following the quake, said a man surnamed Song who answered the phone at a local emergency office in Aba prefecture, where Jiuzhaigou National Park is located.

Xinhua said more than 30,000 tourists visiting Jiuzhaigou were relocated to safer accommodations by tourist bus and private vehicle. On Wednesday morning, another strong earthquake struck in far northwestern China, some 2,200 kilometers (1,360 miles) from Jiuzhaigou, injuring three villagers whose home collapsed, Xinhua reported. That quake was measured at magnitude 6.3 by the USGS and 6.6 by China’s agency and struck in a sparsely populated area of the Xinjiang region near the Kazakhstan border.

Earthquakes are common in China’s west, although casualties are generally low because of the sparse population density. China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor in May 2008, struck the same mountainous prefecture as Tuesday’s quake, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.

Chinese president meeting Merkel, visiting pandas in Berlin

July 05, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and to check in on two giant pandas his country just sent to a Berlin zoo on loan. Xi’s visit Wednesday comes ahead of both leaders’ participation in the Group of 20 summit that begins Friday in Hamburg.

The leaders planned to talk over issues like trade and climate change and have lunch before heading to the zoo to see pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, who arrived June 24. China on Tuesday also announced that it would allow liver cancer experts from Germany, the U.S. and other countries to join a medical team treating imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo — another issue that was likely to come up between Merkel and Xi.

China flexes military muscle in Hong Kong during Xi’s visit

June 30, 2017

HONG KONG (AP) — President Xi Jinping inspected troops based in Hong Kong on Friday as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony China took control of 20 years ago. Xi rode in an open-top jeep past rows of soldiers lined up on an airstrip on his visit to the People’s Liberation Army garrison. He called out “Salute all the comrades” and “Salute to your dedication” as he rode by each of the 20 troop formations.

Armored personnel carriers, combat vehicles, helicopters and other pieces of military hardware were arrayed behind the troops. It was a rare display of the Chinese military’s might in Hong Kong, where it normally maintains a low-key presence.

Xi, wearing a buttoned-up black jacket in the steamy heat, spent about 10 minutes reviewing the troops at the Shek Kong base in Hong Kong’s suburban New Territories. It’s part of a visit to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, when Britain gave up control of the Asian financial hub to China on July 1, 1997.

Hong Kong was granted the freedom to run most of its affairs after it came under China’s control under the “one country, two systems” principle. However, Beijing is in charge of the city’s defense and foreign affairs and the troops based in the city are deployed from the mainland.

Xi’s three-day visit to mark the anniversary includes presiding at the inauguration of the city’s new leader, Carrie Lam, on Saturday. Security has been tight for his visit as authorities brace for protests.

Some 26 people, including young activist leader Joshua Wong, have been released on bail after being arrested for protesting on Wednesday. The department said Friday the activists have not been charged but are required to report back to police in September.

The activists, some of whom were detained more than 30 hours, had climbed onto a giant flower sculpture that was a gift from Beijing and is near the hotel complex where Xi is staying.

China’s Xi visits Hong Kong under heavy security

June 29, 2017

HONG KONG (AP) — China’s President Xi Jinping was greeted by supporters waving red Hong Kong and Chinese flags as he arrived Thursday to mark two decades since China took control in the former British colony.

Xi’s Air China plane touched down Thursday at midday for the three-day visit. The trip culminates Saturday with Xi overseeing an inauguration ceremony for the Asian financial hub’s new leader, Carrie Lam.

Hong Kong authorities were taking no chances with disruptions from protesters and deployed heavy security across the city. Police and barricades lined the streets around a downtown convention center and hotel complex where Xi was expected to spend most of his time.

Three pro-democracy activist groups said 26 of their members were arrested Wednesday evening on public nuisance charges for staging a sit-in at a giant flower sculpture near the complex. Those arrested included Joshua Wong, the young activist who helped lead 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” protests, and Nathan Law, another student protest leader who was elected to the legislature last year.

Berlin gives celebrity welcome to 2 giant pandas from China

June 24, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Two giant pandas — Meng Meng and Jiao Qing — received a celebrity welcome Saturday in Berlin from the German capital’s mayor and the Chinese ambassador after they safely weathered a long flight from China.

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing flew the animal equivalent of first class, getting royal treatment on their 12-hour-flight from Chengdu in southwestern China. Their entourage included a Berlin veterinarian, two Chinese zookeepers and a bunch of journalists.

“They slept a bit, munched on their bamboo and nibbled on some cookies,” veterinarian Andreas Ochs told reporters at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport shortly after the arrival. Medication for motion sickness was not needed.

“They did just fine,” he said. The German capital is going nuts over the impossibly cute bears, who will be presented to the public at Berlin Zoo on July 6. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also expected to visit the new animal stars ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany in early July.

“It was my personal wish to come and welcome our new residents,” Mayor Michael Mueller said. “We are delighted that Berlin has gained another fantastic attraction with these bears.” Jiao Qing, which means “darling,” is a 7-year-old male and weighs 108 kilograms (238 pounds). Female Meng Meng, which translates as “sweet dream,” is three years old and weighs 77 kilograms (169 pounds).

The pandas were taken from the airport to the zoo with police protection so they didn’t have to stop at any red lights. They also brought their own food on the plane — one metric ton of bamboo from China. Once they’ve chewed up all of that, the zoo will start importing special bamboo from the Netherlands.

The furry couple will move into a ritzy new nine-million-euro ($10 million) compound, furbished with Chinese-style pavilions, red lanterns, a climbing area and a mountain landscape. They will be the only pandas in the country, the German news agency dpa reported.

Expectations are high the two will have babies soon, even though Ochs warned that Meng Meng is not yet sexually mature. The arrival of the black-and-white bears was preceded by yearslong bilateral negotiations, since giant pandas are unique to China and sent abroad as diplomatic envoys.

“In China, pandas are regarded as a national treasure,” Chinese ambassador Shi Mingde said. “Therefore the breeding and conservation of these animals is a top priority for us.” The pandas will be on loan from China for 15 years — a deal for which the Asian country is charging 1 million euros ($1.1 million) each year, dpa reported.

Berlin’s last panda, Bao Bao, was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Bao Bao died in 2012. Berlin’s most famous zoo animal, the polar bear Knut, died of a sudden illness in 2011.

10 bodies found, scores missing in massive China landslide

June 25, 2017

MAO COUNTY, China (AP) — Rescuers recovered 10 bodies and were still searching for 93 other people on Sunday, a day after a massive landslide buried a picturesque mountain village in southwestern China.

More than 2,500 rescuers with detection devices and dogs were looking for signs of life amid the rubble of huge boulders that rained down on Xinmo village in Sichuan province early Saturday. As of Sunday afternoon, only three people — a couple and their month-old baby — had been rescued from the disaster site.

Sitting on the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau in Aba prefecture’s Mao County, Xinmo has in recent years become a tourism destination for its picturesque scenery of homes in lush meadows tucked between steep and rugged mountains. But after the landslide, the village was reduced to a vast area of rubble.

As heavy machines removed debris and men scoured the rubble for survivors on Sunday, relatives from nearby villages sobbed as they awaited news of their loved ones. “It was as if strong winds were blowing by, or a big truck rumbled by,” Tang Hua, a 38-year-old woman from a nearby village, told The Associated Press. “The houses were shaking, as if there were an earthquake. We rushed out and saw massive smoke. With a thundering sound, the smoke suddenly lifted. We realized it was a landslide.”

“As we ran for safety, we looked this way and saw the village flattened,” she said. Tang has relatives in Xinmo, but she said little could be done at this point. “The whole village is done for,” she said.

The landslide carried an estimated 18 million cubic meters (636 million cubic feet) of earth and rock — equivalent to more than 7,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools — when it slid down from steep mountains. Some of it fell from as high as 1.6 kilometers (1 mile).

It buried 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) of road and blocked a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) section of a river as it completely wiped away the village, which was once home to 46 families comprising more than 100 people.

The Sichuan provincial government said Sunday that 10 bodies had been found, lowering an earlier figure of 15 that had been reported by state media. It also lowered the number of missing to 93, saying 15 people on an initial list of the missing were accounted for.

There were 142 tourists in the village around the time the landslide hit, and all were alive, said Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of Aba prefecture. Three members of a family from the village were rescued five hours after the landslide struck on Saturday. Qiao Dashuai, 26, told state broadcaster China Central Television that he and his wife awoke to cries from their 1-month-old son at around 5:30 a.m.

“Just after we changed the baby’s diaper, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,” Qiao said. “We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.”

Qiao said his family was swept away by water as part of a mountain collapsed. He said they struggled against the water until they met medical workers who took them to a hospital. His parents and other relatives were among the missing.

A government-run news outlet said that Qiao and his wife were in stable condition on Sunday and that their infant was sent to an intensive care unit with pneumonia induced by mud inhalation. Experts on state media said the landslide was likely triggered by rain. The mountainous region has been prone to geological disasters. In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake killed nearly 90,000 people in Wenchuan County, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mao County.

Scientist He Siming told the state-run Beijing News that the 2008 quake could have done structural damage to the mountains flanking Xinmo. He said the rain could have been the external cause of the landslide.

In 2014, a landslide in the same county killed 11 people when it struck a section of a highway.

Tang reported from Beijing.

Suspect identified in China kindergarten explosion; 8 killed

June 16, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Police have identified a suspect in an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China that killed eight and struck as relatives gathered to pick up their children at the end of the day, local authorities said Friday.

Police were investigating the explosion as a criminal act and said they had “targeted” a suspect, according to a statement issued by authorities in the city of Xuzhou and the official Xinhua News Agency. It was unclear if the suspect was apprehended and no potential motive was provided. A witness cited by state media said a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast.

Two people died at the scene and six died after being taken to a hospital following the explosion at 4:50 p.m. Thursday at the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Fengxian. Initial reports said 59 were injured, but Xinhua and other media reported Friday that 65 were injured including eight who remained in critical condition.

The blast occurred before school had let out for the day and no students or teachers from the kindergarten were injured, according to a statement from local authorities. However, videos purportedly from the scene showed children — possibly relatives of the kindergartners or passers-by — among the casualties.

The videos posted by the state-run People’s Daily showed a chaotic scene outside the entrance to the school, with children and adults lying on the ground, some of them motionless and others struggling to get up off the ground. Clothing, shoes and other items were strewn on the ground beside pools of blood.

The videos showed ambulances arriving, medics wheeling people into an emergency room and medical personnel treating what appeared to be a child. Kindergartens in China have been attacked before by suspects authorities have said were mentally ill or bore grudges against their neighbors and society.

A witness identified only by the surname Shi told the state-run Global Times in the hours after the explosion that a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast. The force of the blast sent people flying several meters (yards) into the air, Shi was quoted as saying.

In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed in attacks on schools, prompting a response from top government officials and leading many schools to beef up security by posting guards and installing gates and other barriers. Last year, a knife-wielding assailant injured seven students outside a primary school in a northern city.

China maintains tight control over firearms and most attacks are carried out using knives, axes or homemade explosives.

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