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China

Deadly earthquake hits China's northwestern Gansu province

An earthquake has hit China's northwestern Gansu province, killing dozens. The magnitude 5.9 quake hit at a depth of just 9.8 kilometers (6 miles) about 1,200 kilometers west of the capital Beijing.

The quake rocked homes in Minxian and Zhangxian counties at 7:45 a.m. local time Monday (2345 GMT Sunday), according to reports. A second quake hit the same region at 9:12 a.m.

At least 75 people were killed and more than 400 injured, authorities said. The fatalities were reported to have occurred in Min County and other rural southern areas of Dingxi municipality, the provincial government said in a statement posted on its official microblog.

The US Geological Survey estimated the magnitude at 5.9, but initial reports from the China Earthquake Networks Center and Gansu's provincial seismological bureau estimated it at 6.6.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed images of rural villages with rubble in the streets and locals in Minxian county said they saw trees and homes swaying during shaking that lasted approximately one minute. The quake was felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou, 177 kilometers from the epicenter, and Xi'an, 400 kilometers away.

The quake was initially reported as being shallow, which can often be more destructive, however early reports on earthquakes can vary widely.

Gansu is one of China's more lightly-populated provinces with 26 million people, containing a varied geography of mountains, desert and pastureland.

Much of western China is prone to earthquakes. The country's worst recent earthquake occurred in the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008. The magnitude 7.9 quake left 90,000 people dead or missing.

dr/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)