Strong China earthquake rattles east Asia
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- An earthquake capable of causing major damage shook central China Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
It registered a magnitude of 7.8, the survey said.
Two more earthquakes -- measuring 6.0 and 5.4 magnitudes -- happened nearby over the next hour, the USGS reported.
Chinese President Hu Jintao immediately ordered an all-out effort to help victims of the earthquakes, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.
China's state-run CCTV reported no serious damage in Chengdu, a city of more than 10 million that is about 60 miles from the epicenter, in the eastern part of China's Sichuan province.
Bonnie Thie, the country director of the Peace Corps, was on a university campus in Chengdu when the first quake hit.
"You could see the ground shaking," Thie said.
The shaking "went on for what seemed like a very long time," she said.
Plaster fell from some walls, she said, but she saw no fallen bricks or broken windows.
"This is a very dangerous earthquake," said Bruce Presgrave, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The quake has the potential to cause major damage because of its strength and proximity to major population centers, he said. In addition, the earthquake was relatively shallow, Presgrave said, and those kinds of quakes tend to do more damage near the epicenter than deeper ones.
The ground shook as far away as Beijing, which is 950 miles (1,528km) from the epicenter. They felt "a very quiet rolling sensation" that lasted for about a minute, according to CNN correspondent John Vause.
"Our building began to sway," he said.
Thousands of people were evacuated from Beijing highrises immediately after the earthquake.
The first earthquake happened at 2:28 p.m. local time (2:28 a.m. ET), the USGS said.
The earthquake was also felt in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand, according to the Hong Kong-based Mandarin-language channel Phoenix TV.