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44,000 people affected by earthquake in Xinjiang
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At least a dozen earthquakes jolted Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China's remote northwest on Friday affecting 44,000 people, but no casualties were reported, local authorities said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, about 2,200 houses were damaged or flattened in counties of Yutian, Qira and Lop in southern Xinjiang's Hotan Prefecture during the quakes, which also toppled hundreds of livestock sheds and vegetable greenhouses, a spokesman with the regional Department of Civil Affairs said.

Direct economic losses were estimated at about 10 million yuan (1.4 million US dollars), the spokesman said.

The first and strongest 7.3-magnitude tremor hit Yutian at 6:33 AM on Friday, which was followed by at least 12 aftershocks measuring over 3.8 on the Richter scale. A number of other minor quakes were also registered, according to the Xinjiang seismological bureau.

Four houses in Pulu, the nearest village to the epicenter in the sparsely-inhabited Kunlun Mountain region, collapsed during the first tremor, but the residents escaped.

Residents of another 110 households in the village were evacuated to safe places by 4 PM on Friday. The 190 families who had moved to quake-proof residences built by the local government over the past three years, were unaffected, the local government said.

The village temporarily closed its sole primary school on Friday. The building remained intact.

Power supply, telecommunications and traffic were almost unaffected.

In 2004, the Hotan government launched a project to build quake-resistant houses in the quake-prone Kunlun Mountain region. More than 1.2 million people in 257,000 households had moved to new quake-resistant buildings by September last year.

(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2008)

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