Quake in China kills at least 22

New blow to area devastated in May

Associated Press / August 31, 2008
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BEIJING - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces yesterday, killing at least 22 people and injuring about 135, state media reported. Nearly 1,000 houses in rural villages were destroyed.

On May 12, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in northern Sichuan killed nearly 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless. The region has been hit by scores of aftershocks, keeping people there on edge.

The official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday's quake killed 17 people in Sichuan and five in the neighboring province of Yunnan. About 100 people in Sichuan and 35 in Yunnan were injured.

The earthquake hit 31 miles southeast of Panzhihua city in the southwestern corner of Sichuan at 4:30 p.m. The epicenter was near Sichuan's border with Yunnan. Xinhua said the quake measured 6.1 on the Richter scale.

Several people were buried in the ruins of their collapsed houses, officials said.

"A large number of houses have collapsed," Qi Kaihong, deputy chief of the Huili county publicity department, told Chinese state television. More than 400 other houses were seriously damaged.

Residents of Kunming, Yunnan's capital, felt a strong shock from the earthquake, with many running into the streets despite falling rain, the China News Service said. Telecommunications were temporarily cut but then restored, it said.

A duty officer at the State Seismology Bureau said the quake occurred in a mountainous area. Poor communications hindered efforts to make a complete casualty count, Xinhua said.

The quake was the latest of several to hit China, including Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. On Friday, a magnitude 5 quake struck Tibet near the border with Nepal, close to an area hit earlier in the week by a stronger quake that damaged hundreds of homes.

That quake hit at 5:43 p.m., with its epicenter about 240 miles northwest of Nepal's capital, Katmandu, according to the US Geological Survey. The thinly populated mountainous region is about 2,000 miles west of Beijing.

On Aug. 25, the Geological Survey reported that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 hit the Zhongba region in southern Tibet.

The Xinhua news agency said that schools, a hydropower station, and 622 homes were damaged and that 2,000 people were forced to seek temporary shelter. No deaths or injuries were reported. Truckloads of materials and relief funds were sent to the area.

As rebuilding efforts continue in Sichuan Province, the Chinese government announced last week that 88 children who were orphaned after the May earthquake have been made eligible for adoption. Authorities began processing registrations last week.

There were 532 children left unaccompanied after the quake, according to an official count, official China News Service said.

The eligible orphans are 14 or younger, and some suffer from physical or other disabilities, the report said. It did not say whether the disabilities resulted from the quake.

China News Service said the children were deemed eligible for expedited adoption because both of their parents are known to have died and because they have expressed a wish to be adopted.

Other children whose parents are missing must wait a period of two years for the parents to be declared dead before they can be adopted, it said.

The Civil Affairs Ministry said earlier this year that people nationwide had shown a huge interest in adopting quake orphans, with 10,000 families registering for adoption in one province alone. An official indicated the ministry could give priority to parents who lost children in the quake.

Adoption applications are not open to foreigners, including residents of the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, and Taiwanese citizens, officials said.

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