At least 300 people died and many others were buried under the debris after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit northwest China's Qinghai Province early on Wednesday, according to China National Radio.
CASUALTIES, DAMAGES AND LOSSES
More than 85 percent of the houses in the Jiegu Township near the epicenter had collapsed, said Zhuohuaxia, a publicity official with the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, told Xinhua.
"The streets in Jiegu are thronged with panic, injured people, with many bleeding in the head," he said.
"A large crack appears in the wall of the Yushu Hotel, and part of a government office building also collapsed," he said.
"I can see injured people everywhere. The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine and medical workers," he said.
The epicenter is at the Rima Village in the Shanglaxiu Township, about 50 km west of Jiegu, the government seat of the Yushu prefecture, and about 800 km away from Xining, the Qinghai provincial capital.
"The epicenter is a pasturing area and sparsely-populated. I think the quake would not cause casualties as heavy as those in Jiegu," Zhuohuaxia said.
Jiegu has a population of about 100,000, including permanent residents and migrant people, he added.
"The houses here are almost all made of wood and earthen walls, which will easily collapse when a quake happens," said Karsum Nyima, deputy director of the News Department of the Yushu TV Station.
Although Yushu is a sparsely-populated region, experts said the quake is very likely to cause "heavy" casualties.
"The strong quake has a shallow depth and the epicenter is close to the prefecture seat," said Sun Shihong, a research fellow with the China Earthquake Networks Center in Beijing.
"It is estimated there will be heavy casualties, as the quake occurred in the early morning and most of the local residents were yet to get up," he said.
"In addition, according to the building structure and damages, a large number of people will be injured," he added.
The quake led to a temporary cut of telecommunications and damaged roads to the airport. The epicenter is about 200 km away from the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and it was not immediately known whether it had been affected.
The quake was strongly felt in the neighboring Qamdo Prefecture and other regions in Tibet.
"But no casualties or major damages have been reported so far. We are investigating the losses," said Zhu Quan, director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Seismological Bureau.
The bureau has dispatched an emergency team made up of 63 professional rescuers to Yushu, Zhu said.
"They left Qamdo in the morning and will arrive at Yushu in the afternoon," he said.