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UPDATE 1 – Strong earthquake hits western China, killing at least 5 people

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 has struck a mountainous region in western China, killing at least 5 people and injuring more than 100 others, seismologists and local officials say. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

The earthquake, which struck at 9:19 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered in the Jiuzhaigou national park in the northern part of Sichuan province, about 101 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Longnan in neighboring Gansu province.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude at 6.5 and said it struck at a depth of just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake. China's Earthquake Network Center (CENC) put the preliminary magnitude at 7.0 with a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

The Chinese government immediately initiated a level 1 emergency response and hundreds of rescue workers were sent to the region, which is sparsely populated. At least 5 people are confirmed to have died and more than 100 others are injured.

The extent of the damage was not immediately known, but one photo showed significant damage at a tourist site. Houses were reported to have collapsed in at least one village, although it was not immediately clear if anyone had been hurt at that location.

Buildings in parts of China are extremely vulnerable to earthquake shaking, and even light earthquakes have caused serious damage and casualties in the past.

At least 617 people were killed in August 2014 when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Yunnan province. It was the country's deadliest earthquake since April 2010, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck northwest China, killing 2,698 people. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan in 2008 killed nearly 88,000 people.

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