Strong earthquake shakes Sichuan province in western China, cutting phone service

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BEIJING — A strong earthquake shook a sparsely populated area of western China late Tuesday, cutting telephone service and prompting residents to rush out of their homes, officials and media reports said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-5.6 quake hit about 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Kangding city in Sichuan province. It said it was centered at a relatively shallow depth of 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles). China's seismological agency put the magnitude at 5.8.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the earthquake caused some items to fall off of tables. It said many residents rushed out of their houses, mindful of a stronger magnitude-6.3 quake that hit the same area on Saturday, causing five deaths.

Tuesday's quake affected telecommunications and many people could not be reached by telephone, Xinhua said.

The USGS said the quake's impact should be relatively localized and there was a low likelihood of casualties.

Western China is regularly hit by earthquakes. Sichuan was struck by a magnitude-7.9 quake in May 2008 that left nearly 90,000 people dead, many of them in collapsed schools and other poorly constructed buildings.

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