July 3, 2015 / 1:38 AM / 2 years ago

Quake in rural China kills three, damages thousands of homes

BEIJING (Reuters) - A strong earthquake hit a rural part of China’s far western Xinjiang region on Friday, killing three people, injuring dozens and destroying or damaging thousands of homes, the government and state media said.

Many traditional houses in the mainly ethnic Uighur region collapsed when the shallow 6.4 magnitude quake struck about 160 km (100 miles) northwest of the southern city of Hotan, emergency officials said.

The dead included a father and son, the government-run China National Emergency Broadcasting said on its website.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs added that at least 3,000 homes either collapsed or were seriously damaged and 1,000 tents were being sent to the region.

Late on Friday, state news agency Xinhua put the number of injured at about 43 and revised down death toll to three from six.

Pictures on social media and state television showed cracks on the walls of buildings and other minor damage.

Earthquakes frequently strike China. A quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.

“If many people are gathered in one place during an earthquake, it can lead to a serious disaster, but in this case, there were relatively few people so it isn’t so serious,” China Earthquake Networks Centre researcher Sun Shihong told state broadcaster China Central Television.

Xinjiang, located on the borders of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, is one of China’s most politically sensitive regions following years of violence, blamed by the government on Islamist militants.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies and religious and cultural restrictions have provoked unrest, an accusation the government denies.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Megha Rajagopalan; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams

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