Quake Kills Hundreds in China; Bernanke to Testify on Economy
A series of powerful earthquakes slammed western China early Wednesday, killing at least 400 people and injuring more than 10,000 in remote Qinghai Province.
The largest quake to hit the mainly Tibetan region, which is mostly populated by farmers and herdsmen, registered a magnitude 6.9. A wave of six temblors followed in less than three hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The initial quake was centered in Yushu, a county of about 100,000 people where most of the homes are made of mud and brick. An estimated 90 percent of the houses were toppled in the city of Jeigu, according to a report by China Central Television.
Across the region, police, fire crews and locals raced to dig out those left buried beneath collapsed homes and buildings. State media reported that 700 paramilitary officers are already in the quake zone, with another 3,000 on the way. The Chinese government is also sending 5,000 tents and 50,000 blankets. Rescue efforts were hampered, however, as blocked roads kept aid workers from outside the region from reaching the injured.
The destruction seemed eerily similar to the May 2008 earthquake in neighboring Sichuan Province that left some 87,000 dead or missing and 5 million homeless.
According to the USGS, 2010 has already been the second deadliest year in the past decade in terms of earthquake-related deaths. The quake in Chile killed at least 450 people in February, and in January some 230,000 were killed in Haiti’s earthquake.
Busy Day on Financial Front
It is set to be a busy day on the financial front as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies about the economic outlook on Capitol Hill and the Senate prepares to take up a vote on extending jobless benefits through Memorial Day.
President Barack Obama will also meet with Congressional leaders about a financial regulation overhaul. The Wall Street Journal reports, Senate Democrats are resisting a “last-ditch lobbying push from big Wall Street firms … in recent days to dilute provisions of the bill that would change the rules for derivatives trading.”
Democrats would like to boost transparency of derivatives trading by requiring over-the-counter products to go through clearing houses, but Republicans fear that could sap liquidity from the market.
Meantime, hopes for a bipartisan bill are dimming, Politico reports, as Senate Republicans have “accused the White House of derailing a deal on derivatives trading and bashed the Democratic legislation as perpetuating Wall Street bailouts.”