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July 22, 2013

China says death toll from NW quake rises

BEIJING — A strong earthquake that shook an arid, hilly farming area in northwest China sparked landslides and destroyed or damaged thousands of brick-and-mud homes Monday, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 400, the government said.

The quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides that blocked roads and slowed rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas.

Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate large numbers of 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 760 miles west of Beijing.

"I saw the bulb hanging from the ceiling start swinging wildly around. I woke my two friends and we ran into the bathroom to hide," said arts student Li Jingui, 21, who was on the fourth floor of a school dormitory in Dingxi when the shaking started.

"After the strongest tremors were over, we were worried that there would be aftershocks so we packed our stuff and ran out into a large clearing," Li said in a telephone interview.

In addition to the 75 confirmed dead, there were 14 people missing and 459 injured, the central government's China Earthquake Administration said.

Damage was worst in Min county in Dingxi's rural southern portion, where scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out, Dingxi Mayor Tang Xiaoming told state broadcaster CCTV. All but three of the deaths, all the missing and most of the injured were in Min, a likely result of shoddy construction.

Residents said the shaking lasted about one minute, but wasn't strong enough to cause major damage in urban areas, where buildings are more solidly built.

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