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Words in the News
Monday 24 February 2003
Earthquake hits China
China quake China says that at least 240 people in the Xinjiang region of north-west China have been killed in a serious earthquake. Officials say that about 1,000 people have been injured and 1,000 buildings have been destroyed in one of the least developed regions in China. This report from Francis Markus:
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The powerful earthquake, measuring six-point-eight on the Richter Scale, struck a cluster of small villages and towns in the remote and arid border region of Xinjiang, close to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Officials say it hit at about ten am local time. That's when many people were having their breakfast because it gets light very late in China's far western regions.

In one of the worst-hit villages in the Bachu area, authorities say about a thousand homes collapsed and at least one school and a clinic. Rescuers, including People's Liberation Army soldiers, are already at work searching through the rubble of buildings, many of which are hastily built out of poor quality construction materials.

And the government has also begun sending in relief supplies of milk and grain and emergency blankets. But this region, populated largely by members of the Muslim Uighur people, is one of the least developed in China and authorities are likely to be hard pressed to respond to the disaster. This area is no stranger to big earthquakes but those over the past few years have caused only light casualties because of the sparse population. It now seems clear that this one is among the most serious in terms of loss of life.

Francis Markus, BBC, Shanghai

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a cluster
a small group of things or people that are gathered closely together - here, it refers to villages and towns
far away from other places
very dry so that very few plants can grow there
suddenly fell down
hastily built
built very quickly, possibly without enough planning
relief supplies
money, food or clothing for people who are poor or hungry
to be hard pressed to
if you find it very difficult and stressful to do something, you are hard pressed to do it
no stranger to
to already have experience of something
light casualties
not many seriously injured people
sparse population
very few people living far away from each other
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