By Bo Gu, NBC News, Beijing
I noticed the swinging leaves on our office manager's desk when she pointed out her plant to me and asked me if I felt the earthquake. Her eyes were wide open and her hands were on her chest. I told her I didn't feel anything, but I couldn't help giving a quick glance on our ceiling lamp-it obviously swayed for a few seconds.
In a few minutes our freelance producer Steven called in, told us there were hundreds of people evacuating from office buildings to the street, causing a small traffic in the main road of Beijing.
News started popping up on major websites: a quake measured at magnitude 7.5 struck western China, shaking buildings in cities as far away as Beijing and the business hub of Shanghai. The quake struck 57 miles (92 kilometers) northwest of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu at 2:28 p.m. (0628 GMT). The 7.5-magnitude quake was centered 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) below the surface.
7.5 magnitude is absolutely an appalling level to Chinese people, who two years ago just had the 30th anniversary of the greatest earthquake in the northern city of Tangshan in 1976. Over 240,000 people were killed in that 7.8-magnitude earthquake, the second largest death toll in a single earthquake in modern history.
More news and images caught up at a frightening speed. Schools buildings fell down with hundreds of children buried underneath. Chemical plants collapsed, causing tons of liquid ammonia to leak. Cracks showed up in buildings. Water tower was toppled. In a village in northern Sichuan alone, 80% of buildings were destroyed. Electricity was out and no phone calls could be made to the quake zone. Death toll climbed up gradually from ten to a hundred to hundreds, then thousands.
By 8:00 pm, Premier Wen Jiabao has arrived in Sichuan in his private jet, and gave a speech to the whole country, expressing central government's condolence, ordering a military entry to the disaster zone and calling for the whole country to fight against the catastrophe.
Regions and countries as far as Bangkok and Taipei felt the tremor too. More and more deaths are reported in other nearby provinces in Gansu, Shanxi, and Yunnan provinces.
By the time I finish this blog, 9,000 people are reported to have died in the earthquake, and official news says the death toll is likely to grow.