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Peking sends help to Yunnan, `China's earthquake center'

A large convoy of rescue trucks Tuesday rushed to aid survivors of an earthquake that has left at least 930 people dead in southwest China. The convoy of 30 military vehicles weaved through the remote, mountainous region near the Burma border, joining thousands of troops assisting the survivors of Sunday's temblor, said an official at the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Peking.

The quake, registering 7.6 on the open-ended Richter scale, leveled buildings, cut phone lines, and destroyed roads over a wide area in Yunnan Province. Minor aftershocks persisted into Tuesday morning.

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The most severe damage was reported from the towns of Menglian and Lancang but spotty communication links from the rugged area prevented an accurate assessment of casualties, the official at the ministry's Disaster Relief Office said.

Some 930 people were reported killed in the earthquake, the Civil Affairs Ministry told the UN Development Program in Peking. The region is inhabited by about 40,000 people, mostly of the Lahu minority, the ministry official said.

The military convoy, supplementing earlier airdrops of supplies, carried tents and food to the survivors.

Chinese seismologists had predicted that an earthquake of 7.0 on the Richter scale would strike western China this year, Liu Defu, an official with the state bureau of seismology, told Peking radio.

Mr. Liu called Yunnan ``China's earthquake center,'' noting that another temblor registering 7.6 on the Richter scale killed some 40,000 people in the province in 1970.

On Saturday, a quake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale shook northern Tibet and Qinghai Province, in western China. State documents reported that 655,237 people died in 1976 when an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale hit eastern Hebei Province near Tangshan.

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