Dubai: Rescuers dug with their bare hands through the rubble after a devastating earthquake hit a remote area of China Wednesday, killing more than 600 people and injuring thousands, on the same day that a violent tropical storm left at least 93 people dead and devastated more than 67,000 homes in India and Bangladesh.
In China, among the dead were children buried when the quake measuring at least 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked a predominantly Tibetan region in the northwestern province of Qinghai, in scenes that brought back memories of a massive killer quake two years ago.
About 10,000 people were injured in the quake, which disrupted telecommunications, knocked out electricity, toppled temples and triggered landslides, hampering rescue efforts.
State media spoke of panicked residents fleeing their homes while others hunted for loved ones trapped in the ruins in Yushu prefecture, the epicentre of the latest disaster to strike the world's most populous nation.
President Hu Jintao called for all-out efforts to save as many people as possible, with over 5,000 rescuers including soldiers rushing to the disaster zone while the government said it would provide over $29 million (Dh106 million) in aid.
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama offered his prayers for those who lost their lives while Pope Benedict XVI called for "solidarity" with the victims and nations including Japan and France offered help.
About 617 people have been confirmed dead, Xinhua news agency reported, quoting Huang Limin, a top official in Yushu, who said many people were still buried in the rubble as aftershocks rumbled on.
Meanwhile, winds of up to 120km/h tore across northeastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh, ravaging mud and tin-roofed homes, uprooting trees and bringing down electricity lines.
Officials in the states of West Bengal, Bihar and Assam said a total of 91 people had been killed. Two others were reported dead in Bangladesh.
"The storm has left a trail of destruction everywhere," West Bengal minister of state for civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee told local television.
The number of people killed and houses damaged could rise further, disaster officials said, as relief was rushed to the affected areas, where roads were blocked by fallen trees and phone lines were down.
The storm was an extreme form of what is locally known as a "nor'wester" — a weather pattern that develops over the Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year, the West Bengal weather office said.