UPDATE: 94 now dead following earthquake in China

BEIJING (AP) - UPDATE (5:30am 7-23-13):

Rescuers with shovels and sniffer dogs chipped away at collapsed hillsides Tuesday as the death toll rose to 94 from a strong earthquake in a farming region of northwest China.

Just one person was listed as missing and 1,001 as injured in Monday morning's quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province.

About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its website. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged, the administration said.

The quake toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides, blocking roads and slowing rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas.

Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate the injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People's Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck about 1,200 kilometers (760 miles) west of Beijing.

Min county in Dingxi's rural south accounted for almost all the deaths and the worst damage.

Urban areas where buildings are more solid were spared major damage, unlike the traditional mud and brick homes in the countryside.

Tremors were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 177 kilometers (110 miles) north, and as far away as Xi'an, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east.

The government's earthquake monitoring center said the quake was magnitude-6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was 5.9.

Measurements can often vary, especially if different monitoring equipment is used.

The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area. Other supplies were being shipped in by the army and paramilitary police, which dispatched around 6,000 personnel and two helicopters to aid in rescue efforts.

But heavy rain is expected later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.

Gansu, with a population of 26 million, is one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the New Jersey-sized area of Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms in rolling hills terraced for crops and fruit trees. Dingxi has a population of about 2.7 million.

China's worst earthquake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing.

Original story (7-22-13):

A strong, shallow earthquake struck a dry, hilly farming area in western China early Monday, killing at least 75 people, injuring more than 400, and destroying thousands of homes, state media and the local government said.

Residents described shaking windows and swinging lights in communities where the quake hit near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province, a hilly region of mountains, desert and pastureland about 1,233 kilometers (766 miles) west of Beijing.

Tremors were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 177 kilometers (110 miles) north, and as far away as Xi'an, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east.

"You could see the chandeliers wobble and the windows vibrating and making noise, but there aren't any cracks in the walls. Shop assistants all poured out onto the streets when the shaking began," said a front desk clerk at the Wuyang Hotel in the Zhang County seat about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the epicenter.

The clerk surnamed Bao refrained from identifying herself further, as is common among ordinary Chinese.

The government's earthquake monitoring center said the initial quake at 7:45 a.m. (2345 GMT Sunday) was magnitude-6.6 and subsequent tremors included a magnitude-5.6.

The quake was shallow, which can be more destructive. The center said it struck about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) beneath the surface, while the Gansu provincial earthquake administration said it was just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) deep.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude of the initial quake as 5.9 and the depth at 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Initial measurements of an earthquake can vary widely, especially if different monitoring equipment is used.

China state Xinhua News Agency said the death toll was at 75. An additional 14 people were missing, and 412 were injured, the provincial government said in a statement posted online.

The deaths and injuries were reported in Min County and other rural southern parts of the municipality, Dingxi Mayor Tang Xiaoming told state broadcaster CCTV. Tang said damage was worst in the counties of Zhang and Min, where scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out.

Su Wei, leader of a 120-member rescue team from the paramilitary People's Armed Police, told state broadcaster CCTV that they were on their way to the epicenter, but progress was being slowed by mud and rock slides blocking the road.

The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from both Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work and assess further needs.

Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.

More than 1,200 homes were destroyed by the quake, with another 21,000 badly damaged, provincial government spokesman Chang Zhengguo was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. With a population of 26 million, Gansu is one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the New Jersey-sized area of Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms in rolling hills terraced with fields for crops and fruit trees.

Dingxi has a total population of about 2.7 million.

China's worst earthquake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing.


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