Strong, shallow earthquake hits western China


BEIJING (AP) — A strong, shallow earthquake struck a moderately populated part of western China on Monday morning. No information on damage was immediately available.

The quake hit near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province, a largely desert and pastureland region with a population of 26 million. That makes it one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the area around Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms and towns.

The government's earthquake monitoring center said the magnitude was 6.6, which can cause severe damage, and it detected aftershocks ranging up to magnitude 3.9.

It said the initial quake at 7:45 a.m. (2345 GMT Sunday) hit at a depth of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) beneath the surface, although the Gansu provincial earthquake administration said the quake was at an even shallow depth of just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles).

Quakes near the surface tend to be more destructive.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude as 5.9 and the depth at 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Initial measurements of a quake can vary widely, especially if different monitoring equipment is used.

Local disaster response officials said they were still in the process of gathering information and had no figures for damage or injuries. The officials declined to give their names as is common with Chinese bureaucrats.

Dingxi is about 1,233 kilometers (766 miles) west of Beijing.

China's worst earthquake in recent years was an 8.9 magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing.