China earthquake sends media into action

CCTV ran live coverage for four hours

NEW YORK -- China's lead state news channel offered four hours of live coverage of Monday's 7.8 earthquake near Chengdu, while online video sites brought the outside world some of the first pictures of the disaster that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

China Central Television's 24-hour news channel, which will host the Beijing Olympics in August, broke in to regular programming around 2:50 p.m. Beijing time, reporting that a 7.5 earthquake had occurred outside the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, in China's mountainous southwest, about 30 minutes earlier.

CCTV began live coverage at 3 p.m. until its main 7 p.m. news broadcast -- the most-watched show in China -- which ran 10 minutes beyond its normal half-hour format.

The live broadcast of the aftermath of China's worst earthquake in 32 years is believed to be the channel's longest continuous live coverage since the Iraq War began in 2003. At that time, CCTV had just launched its 24-hour channel and was trying to pry viewers away from rival Phoenix TV.

CCTV beamed its first pictures of Chengdu around 4:30 p.m. Beijing time, showing no indication of structural damage or injuries, save one shot of a woman bleeding from her head getting into a car.

Online video sites and offered video of the earthquake. While reports indicated that mobile phone service in and around Chengdu was unavailable, pictures uploaded to the sites confirmed that Internet service remained operational.

Chinese film director Jia ZhangKe ("Still Life") wrapped his latest film, "24 City," in Chengdu last week. A spokesman for Jia told THR that the film, which will premiere Saturday In Competition at the Festival de Cannes, had returned with Jia to Beijing for postproduction when the quake occurred.

In 1976, China suffered the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century when an 8.2 quake near Tangshan in Hebei province killed at least 240,000 people, government estimates show.

Alex S. Dai in Shanghai contributed to this report.