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In Qinghai Province in China, earthquake kills hundreds and levels buildings

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Other teams will have to make their way 18 hours through the mountains by automobile from the capital Xining, in the northeastern part of the province, CCTV said.

"The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine, and medical workers," Zhuo told Xinhua.

The epicenter at Rima Township, 30 miles from Jiegu, is a sparsely populated pastureland, where fewer casualties are likely to be recorded, Zhuo told Xinhua.

"Our first task is to save students. Schools are always places that have many people," said Kang Zifu, a People's Liberation Army officer in the rescue operation in Yushu, told Xinhua.

Scars from Sichuan quake

In May 2008, 5,335 Chinese students were crushed when their schools collapsed in the 8.0 magnitude Sichuan earthquake, official data showed, sparking widespread public criticism of shoddily built government schools and an outcry over Beijing's reaction to the quake, which many perceived to be insufficient.

Comments on Wednesday to popular social networking site Tianya reflected some Internet users’ concern that the Yushu earthquake be handled differently.

"What have the officials in the earthquake administration have been doing?" asked "jiliganglove." Another Tianya user, nicknamed "shashishajingjie," wrote: "I am not going to donate any money any more … ultimately, the money goes to corrupt officials' pockets."

Repeated telephone calls to Yushu government offices rang unanswered on Wednesday afternoon, and mobile phone numbers obtained for a local rescue crew were busy for hours.

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