At least 75 people were killed and more than 600 injured after a powerful and shallow earthquake struck near the city of Dingxi in China's northwest Gansu province.
The earthquake appears to have hit at 7:45 a.m. Monday near the junction of Gansu's Minxian and Zhangxian counties, reports Xinhua, at a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).
The Chinese government measured the magnitude as 6.6 on the Richter scale, according to the state-run news agency. The US Geological Survey put it at 5.98 with a depth of 9.8 kilometers (6 miles).
Reuters reported that a second quake measuring magnitude 5.6 struck at 9:12 a.m. in the same region. A total of 405 tremors were measured by Monday afternoon, six of them with a magnitude above 3.0, according to the South China Morning Post.
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Xinhua said the death toll had risen to 75 from earlier figures, with an estimated 600 suffering from injuries.
"More than 21,000 buildings were severely damaged and more than 1,200 have collapsed," an official at the provincial earthquake bureau told AFP.
The China Earthquake Administration is monitoring the situation and has sent a disaster relief team to the area, Xinhua said.
A live feed from the South China Morning Post said that the Gansu Military Police deployed 500 troops to the area to help with rescue efforts.
Further, the SCMP reported thirteen villages in Zhang county, northwest of the quake's epicenter, were cut off from contact with the outside world.
Shallow-focus earthquakes (defined as occurring at a depth of less than 70 kilometers below the earth's surface) are more common and are larger than deeper earthquakes — and considerably more dangerous.
As they create shallow seismic waves, shallow earthquakes are capable of transferring considerably more energy to the earth's surface, causing wide swaths of destruction.