msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 4/14/2010 10:45:11 AM ET 2010-04-14T14:45:11

The Chinese Prefecture of Yushu, which was hit by a series of strong earthquakes on Wednesday , has an average altitude of more than 13,000 feet, according to the Xinhua news service, and lies on the Tibetan-Qinghai plateau known as the "Roof of the World."

Its population is more than 250,000, of whom 97 percent are Tibetans, Xinhua stated.

Yushu and its environs are among the Tibetan areas that were caught up in the anti-government protests that swept the region in March 2008.

Tensions have simmered since, and the region has been closed to foreigners off and on. Chinese Central Television (CCTV) reported that soon after the quake, troops secured banks, oil depots and caches of explosives.

Yushu was for centuries home to important Buddhist monasteries and a trading hub and gateway to central Tibet.

In recent years, the government has poured investment into Yushu, opening an airport last year and building a highway to the provincial capital of Xining.

Yushu's gross domestic product was more than 2.5 billion yuan ($367.6 million) in 2009, Xinhua said. Some 21,700 people work as farmers and herders.

Yushu lies in Qinghai Province in China's north-west on the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Qinghai averages more than five earthquakes a year of at least magnitude 5.0, according to the Xinhua. The quakes normally do not cause much damage in the sparsely populated province.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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