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Eight dead after earthquake in western China

A moderate earthquake close to the earth's surface has killed eight people and injured more than 20 others in western China, officials said.

The quake struck in Taxkorgan county, a remote mountainous area that borders Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Xinjiang region.

The Xinjiang Earthquake Administration said more than 180 houses had collapsed in the lightly populated area.

The US Geological Survey said the 5.4-magnitude quake struck at a depth of six miles. Shallow quakes cause greater shaking at the surface, which can cause more damage.

The county has a population of around 33,000, and is notable for being a stop on the Karakoram Highway, built along the ancient Silk Road connecting China's far western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

The official Xinhua News Agency said there had been frequent aftershocks and search and rescue work was under way.

Earthquakes are common in China's west, although the low population density often means casualties are low. However, in 2003, a 6.8-magnitude quake in a nearby county killed 268 people.

China's deadliest earthquake this century, a 7.9-magnitude tremor with a depth of 12 miles, struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

AP

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