- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

BEIJING, Feb. 24 (UPI) — More than 240 people were killed and thousands of buildings flattened Monday in an earthquake that hit the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua said the quake was magnitude 6.8 on the Richter scale and centered 24 miles east of Jiashi and about 50 miles south of China's border with Kyrgyzstan. The temblor was felt in Urumqi, the provincial capital, 600 miles from Jiashi.

The death toll was expected to rise above the 242 official total issued early Monday evening. Many areas affected are remote and officials had not received reports from many of them. Xinhua said more than 1,000 houses were destroyed in one village.

Zhang Yong, director of disaster prevention in the Xinjiang Seismology Bureau was quoted by Xinhua as saying: "Aftershocks happen one after another now. The biggest one was around 5.0 on the Richter scale."

The region, relatively sparely populated, is very active seismically.

The 640,000-square-mile province has a population of 15.5 million mostly Muslim Uighurs.

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