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Friday, January 28, 2000, updated at 19:38(GMT+8)
China Yunnan Frequent Earthquakes Not Abnormal

Several recent earthquakes in southwest China's Yunnan province with magnitudes of 5 to 6 on the Richter scale are "not abnormal phenomena," and local residents should not fear for their safety, the head of the provincial seismological bureau said on January 28.

Yunnan has been hit by three earthquakes in as many months: one in the Chengjiang County with 5.2 magnitude on November 25 last year, and two measuring 5.9 and 6.5 in Yao'an County on January 15,which killed five, injured 1,544, and left more than 90,000 homeless.

Early Thursday morning, a 5.5 tremor struck the remote area between the counties of Mile and Qiube. Only two minor injuries were reported.

"The province is located on a seismic belt and will suffer at least one or two earthquakes with up to 5-point magnitude every year, with most of them happening in winter or spring," said Yan Fengtong, director of the Yunnan Seismological Bureau.

Earthquakes have not pre-empted business as usual for the local residents; the capital city Kunming is to hold its China Tourism Year festival in April as planned.

No reports of economic losses have been reported from the latest earthquake. Rescue workers were sent to the scene with tents, blankets and other necessities, local officials said.

Twelve earthquakes with magnitudes above 6 have occurred in Yunnan since the founding of New China in 1949.

"Earthquakes are actually not uncommon here, and it would be irresponsible to come to a hasty conclusion that there will be a disastrous one in the province later," Yan stressed.

He Xihu, a seismologist for 40 years who has experienced many strong quakes, said that the seismic belt is now in its fourth cycle of earthquakes since 1988, when a quake with a 7.8 magnitude shook the cities of Lancang and Gengma.

Few casualties have resulted from the past earthquakes in the province. Local hospitals and rescue workers are experienced in quake situations and local residents are familiar with quake safety procedures.

Records show that six earthquakes with magnitudes above 5 hit Ninglang County in the winter of 1998, and soon after a 5.0 quake struck the province's Xuanwei City.

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