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2 dead as aftershocks rattle northern China
( 2003-08-17 07:45) (Xinhua and Agencies)

Up to 60 aftershocks have rattled China's northern regions after an earthquake  measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale Saturday that has killed two people and left more than 40 injured, officials said.

"From our initial figures, two people have died, over 40 have been injured and more than 2,600 homes have collapsed," Jia Jianqi, an official at the State Seismological Bureau, said.

"These are only the initial figures, we are working to assess all the damage and are still collecting figures," the official said.

The temblor hit at 6:58 p.m. 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 300 miles to the south. 

The epicenter of the quake, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of Beijing, was not near any major urban areas.

Up to 60 aftershocks, the biggest measuring 4.4 on the Richter Scale, has rattled the areas of Bairin Zuoqi and Ar Horqin Qi following the initial quake.

A local seismological official said 24,483 homes were damaged and 2,602 collapsed in 98 villages in the Bairin Zouqi area, calling the earthquake the strongest in the area in 700 years.

Another 169 homes collapsed in villages near Ar Horqin Qi.

"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 said.

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

The State Seismological Bureau Saturday night sent a team of 30 experts to the quake-hit region to begin to organize rescue and assess damage.

Inner Mongolia is a sprawling largely desert region that stretches more than 2,100 kilometres (1,260 miles) from its western edge to its northeastern reaches.

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