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Shallow magnitude 5.5 earthquake triggers rockslides in southwest China

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BEIJING – Rescuers were on Thursday heading to the site of a magnitude 5.5 earthquake in a region of southwest China at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau prone to deadly quakes.

Roads to the area have been blocked by rockslides, although no casualties or other damage have been reported. According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) at 3:49 a.m. in Sichuan province’s mountainous Luding county.

Although 5.5. magnitude earthquakes are not particularly strong, shallow quakes are more likely to cause damage.

The official Xinhua News Agency said about 100 rescuers were on their way to the site, but it did not provide details about their work expertise or duties. China typically mobilizes firefighters, paramilitary forces and local volunteers as earthquake and wildfire first responders in remote mountainous areas with limited roads.

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the same region in September, killing more than 90 people, injuring more than 400 and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings.

The China Earthquake Networks Center gave a magnitude of 5.6 and a depth of 11 kilometers (6.8 mi). Aftershocks followed in the area, including one with a magnitude of 4.9.

About 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the provincial capital of Chengdu, Luding is located in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, where tectonic plates rub against each other.

China’s deadliest earthquake in recent years was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 2008 that killed nearly 90,000 people in Sichuan. The earthquake devastated cities, schools and rural communities outside Chengdu, leading to years of rebuilding with more earthquake-resistant materials.

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