May 12, 2008—
A student sits in the shambles of his school classroom in Guancheng village in Chongqing after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rattled Sichuan Province
, on May 12, 2008.
The temblor, which struck around 2:30 p.m., killed almost 9,000 people and trapped nearly 900 students under the rubble of their school in Juyuan, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the epicenter, according to state media reports. Students were also buried under five other destroyed schools in the city of Deyang.
Fifty of the Juyuan students were confirmed dead, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua, which also quoted two girls saying they had escaped because they had "run faster than others."
A chemical plant that collapsed in Shifang also buried hundreds of people and spilled more than 80 tons of toxic liquid ammonia from the site, Xinhua reported.
The last major earthquake
hit China in 2003, when a magnitude 6.8 quake killed 268 people west of Xinjiang.
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Photograph by Imaginechina/AP Images