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  China Earthquake Topples 7, 900 Homes, Kills Three

Filed at 8:27 a.m. ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - An earthquake hit China's northern region of Inner Mongolia, toppling more than 7,900 homes, killing three people and injuring 1,000, officials said on Sunday.

The quake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale hit at 6:58 p.m. (1058 GMT) on Saturday near the towns of Bairin Zuoqi and Ar Horqin Qi in eastern Inner Mongolia and could be felt as far away as the capital Beijing, about 500 km (300 miles) to the south.

Official news agency Xinhua called the earthquake the worst in the region in 700 years and quoted a Ministry of Civil Affairs official as saying more than 1,000 people were injured -- 54 seriously -- in five counties, and more than 600,000 affected.

"We were having dinner at the time when the quake hit and it was fairly strong. At the start it sounded like an avalanche. Everybody ran out to the street," a police official in Bairin Zuoqi told Reuters.

"No one dared sleep at home last (Saturday) night and we all stayed outside. We can see people just sleeping on the streets."

Television showed homes, many of them built of mud bricks, turned to piles of rubble. Others had roofs caved in, leaving only walls standing.

Paramilitary police were setting up tents to house thousands left homeless or too afraid to return to their homes.

"We are expecting more aftershocks but they would not be strong," a local seismological official said, adding the latest at 1.30 p.m. (0530 GMT) measured 4.7 on the Richter scale.

A municipal official in the city of Chifeng nearby said about 1,000 people had been injured in outlying villages.

Xinhua quoted a local seismological official as saying 83,000 homes were damaged and 7,912 collapsed in the area, calling the earthquake the worst to hit the region in 700 years.

It put economic losses at 1.38 billion yuan ($167 million).

A quake relief official in Bairin Zuoqi said by telephone the region was short of shelter and aid.

"It is raining here and we don't have enough tents. We tried to put as many people as possible in the temporary shelters," he said, adding that tarpaulin was also being used for shelters.

In July, an earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter scale killed 15 and injured nearly 300 in the southwestern province of Yunnan.


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Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

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