By Kalsang Rinchen
Xinhua photo shows a monk being helped out of rubble.
Dharamsala, April 15 – The death toll in yesterday’s earthquake that hit Tibet’s Yushu County (Kyegudo in traditional Tibetan province of Kham) in Yushu prefecture, Qinghai province, has gone up to 617, according to the official Chinese media.
However, unconfirmed sources including Tibetan exiles belonging to the quake hit area who claimed to have spoken to people there say the death toll is much higher. One Tibetan who said he spoke to someone in his village puts the death toll around 3000.
The latest statistics show that 313 people were missing and 9,110 injured, 970 severely, said a spokesman with the rescue headquarters in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in southern Qinghai.
Many people are still buried in the debris as more than 85 percent of houses in Gyegu, mostly made of mudbrick and wood, had collapsed.
The death toll "may rise further as lots of houses collapsed," according to
Wu Yong, commander of the Yushu Military Area Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
The exile Tibetan government’s department of religion held a special prayer at the Tsuglakhang temple today for the victims of the earthquake and their families. Local Tibetans including monks and nuns from various monasteries around here attended the prayer.
The quake measured 7.1 on Richter scale, according to China Earthquake Networks Center but the United States Geological Survey puts the magnitude at 6.9.
The epicenter of the quake lies in Yushu County (Kyegudo in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham) in the Yushu prefecture. The quake struck at 7:49 a.m. with a depth of about 33 km and is calculated to be 33.1 north and 96.7 east, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.