HONG KONG (UPI) -- Tangshan, the city hardest hit by China's devastating earthquake, was a rapidly expanding industrial center with a 500-year history as one of the country's leading pottery producers.
Chinese officials said, "Tangshan City, in particular, suffered extremely serious damages and losses" in Wednesday's quake, the strongest recorded in the world in a dozen years.
Reports reaching Peking said the city of about 1 million located near the northern end of the North China Plain and 70 miles from the end of the Great Wall was "virtually demolished."
The city is on the main rail line from the heavily industrialized northeast region of China once known as Manchuria. It is almost midway between two major ports, Tientsin and Chinhuangtao, Each is less than 100 miles away.
It once was the largest producer of cement in China and remained a major supplier.
Because it is located near the Kailuan mine -- one of the nation's largest coal mines -- Peking's economic planners began development of iron and steel and thermal power plants there shortly after the Communist takeover in 1949.