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CHINA'S most devastating earthquake in recorded history hit northern Shaanxi province in 1556, killing an estimated 830,000 people.

In 1995 China put into force a law to improve emergency response to earthquakes. State media reported at the time that more than 610,000 Chinese had been killed by earthquakes in that century.

Earthquakes regularly rattle the vast Tibetan plateau, including Tibet itself, the far west region of Xinjiang and Qinghai province. They are also common in southwest Yunnan province and northern areas.

Quakes are relatively rare in central China and along the eastern seaboard but the northwest is frequently hit by tremors.

Following is a chronology of some of China's biggest earthquakes in recent decades:
. . . . . . . . . .

July 1976
At least 270,500 people die when an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale flattens the northern city of Tangshan.

April 1985
Earthquake measuring 6.3 kills 22 in Yunnan.

August 1985
Xinjiang hit by earthquake that kills 67 people and injures more than 100. The tremor measures 7.4.

November 1988
Earthquake measuring 7.6 devastates remote areas in Yunnan, killing at least 730 people and destroying about 400,000 homes.

October 1989
Series of tremors in northern Shanxi and Hebei provinces kill 29 people and leave 60,000 homeless.

April 1990
Earthquake measuring 6.9 kills 126 people in northwestern Qinghai province.

October 1995
Earthquake in Yunnan kills 50 and injures more than 6,000. The 6.5 tremor leaves 170,000 people homeless.

February 1996
Earthquake measuring 7.0 wrecks scenic mountain town of Lijiang in Yunnan, killing at least 304 people and injuring more than 16,000.

March 1996
Earthquake measuring 6.9 jolts Xinjiang, killing 26 people, injuring 128.

May 1996
Earthquake measuring 6.4 rocks Inner Mongolia, killing 15 people and injuring more than 200. Nearly 400 aftershocks follow.

January 1997
An earthquake measuring 6.4 kills up to 50 people and injures more than 40 in Xinjiang.

April 1997
A strong earthquake measuring 6.6 strikes Xinjiang, killing nine people and injuring 60.

January 1998
At least 47 people are killed and more than 2,000 injured when an earthquake measuring 6.2 rocks Hebei, devastating mud and brick homes in two rural counties.

February 24, 2003
A devastating 6.8 earthquake, the worst to strike the Xinjiang region in 5 decades, shakes China's remote northwest, killing at least 266 people, injuring more than 4,000 half of whom suffer severe injuries, and causing thousands of buildings to collapse near the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar. 50,000 are left homeless or otherwise affected by the disaster; 8,861 homes and 900 school classrooms are leveled. The quake strikes the western edge of Xinjiang province at 10.03 a.m. Monday (0203 GMT). The epicenter is located near sparsely populated Jiashi county, 100 miles east of Kashgar.
. . . . . . . . . .
Timeline Sources: Reuters, CNN, Encyclopedia Britannica, United Nations

Additional resources:

ReliefWeb: China
USGS: Earthquake Hazards Program
USGS: NEIC Near Real Time Earthquake List
China Seismological Bureau
Reuters AlertNet: Earthquakes
Regional Seismic Database for Southwest China; Winston Chan, Wenjie Jiao,
Robert Wagner, and Indra Gupta (pdf file)
China Digital Seismograph Network (CDSN)
Earth Resources Laboratory (MIT)
Cornell University Department of Geological Sciences and Institute for the
Study of the Continents
Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) (Columbia University)
American Geological Institute
Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

Earthquake Engineering Frontiers in the New Millennium: Proceedings of the China-US
Millennium Symposium on Earthquake Engineering, Beijing, 8-11 November 2000
B. F. Spencer, Y. X. Hu; Swets & Zeitlinger; 2001; ISBN: 9026518528
The Nineteen Seventy Six Tangshan, China Earthquake Papers Presented at the Second
US National Conference on Earthquake Engineering
; Earthquake Engineering Research,
1979; ISBN: 9998548853

A General History of Earthquake Studies in China; Tang Xiren , 1988; ISBN: 7030000994
Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China, Earthquake, February 3, 1996: Reconnaissance Report;
Daniel Abrams, Lloyd Cluff, Patricia Bolton; 1998; ISBN: 0943198666
Earthquake Prediction: Nine Major Earthquakes in China (1966-1976); Ma Zongjin,
Z. Ma; 1991; ASIN: 0387502718

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