China Earthquake Eyewitness: 'We All Thought, Is the Building Going to Hold?'

J.R. Wu was in her office on the 20th floor when the earth began to move.

“The building started swaying,” Wu told from her home in Beijing Monday night. “We all thought, Is the building going to hold?”

The high-rise held. Wu, Dow Jones' Beijing bureau chief since 2005, was in a meeting with 20 of her colleagues Monday when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck central China, hundreds of miles away.

According to state media reports, at least 8,500 people were killed.

In Beijing, the earth started to rumble at about 2:35 p.m. local time.

“The shaking lasted for several minutes," Wu said. "We felt nauseous."

The earthquake, which hit Sichuan province, sent thousands of people rushing out of buildings and into the streets in Beijing and Shanghai, hundreds of miles from the epicenter. The temblor was felt as far away as Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand.

The Xinhua News Agency said 80 percent of the buildings Sichuan's Beichuan county had collapsed.

Rescuers had recovered at least 50 bodies from the debris of a school building in Juyuan township, about 60 miles from the epicenter.

"Many of my colleagues started running to the window as the building began to shake," Wu said. "We saw people leaving buildings. They were evacuating for safety reasons."

Wu said that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is leading the rescue effort for the earthquake and "has already visited ground zero."

In a statement issued on his plane en route to the disaster area, Wen called for "calm and confidence."

"The government is taking this very seriously. They’re very concerned," Wu said. "I know that the government is pledging relief funds. It’s not clear what the total is going to be at this time."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.