Strong earthquake shakes southwestern China

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BEIJING (AP) - A strong, shallow earthquake shook southwestern China's Yunnan province late Tuesday evening, killing at least one person, sending thousands fleeing into the streets and damaging buildings, officials and reports said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured magnitude 6.0 and was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Weiyuan city at a depth of 10.1 kilometers (6.3 miles). Its shallow focus was likely to cause greater damage, but there were no immediate reports of serious destruction.

China's national earthquake monitoring agency gave the quake's magnitude as 6.6 and said it struck just 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) below the surface. It said the quake was followed by eight aftershocks, the strongest of which registered at magnitude 4.2.

The quake hit at 9:49 p.m. (1349 GMT) when most residents would have been in their homes.

Yunnan's provincial earthquake monitoring center said at least one person was killed and 28 others injured.

Worst hit was the town of Yongping, just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the epicenter, where some houses had collapsed, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Yongping has a population of 54,000, while the surrounding county of Jinggu closest to the epicenter has a population of 290,000.

"The whole building was shaking terribly with a loud cracking sound. Plates fell off in the kitchen. We all ran out and the streets now are packed with people," Li Anqin, a resident living in Weiyuan, Jinggu's county seat, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Xinhua said strong tremors were felt in the provincial capital, Kunming, about 360 kilometers (220 miles) to the northeast. It said an initial 230-member rescue team had been dispatched to the quake area within two hours of its striking.

A state television reporter in the city of Pu'er, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the epicenter, said people fled buildings and were camping outdoors in anticipation of more aftershocks. The reporter, Wang Jian, said there was damage to structures and the local cellphone network, but had heard no reports of deaths or injuries.

The remote mountainous region near the border with Myanmar is prone to earthquakes. A 6.1-magnitude quake in northern Yunnan in August killed at least 615 people and left more than 100 others missing. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people.


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