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A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck a sparsely populated part of China’s western Xinjiang region early Tuesday, killing three people and causing extensive damage in freezing cold weather, officials said. It was the latest in a series of temblors and natural disasters to hit the country’s west.

The quake rocked Uchturpan county in Aksu prefecture shortly after 2 a.m., the China Earthquake Networks Center said. Rescue crews were rushed to the area, with about 1,000 on hand by midday. By evening, authorities said three people have died and five were injured in the county, which is also called Wushi in the Mandarin language spoken by most Chinese.

Rescue crews combed through the rubble, overturning bricks and stone blocks in search of victims. Emergency survival gear — including coats, tents and folding beds to help the thousands of people who fled their homes — had arrived or were on their way, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

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