Strong earthquake hits central China

A strong earthquake rocked the western Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Gansu today, killing one person and injuring 23 near the site of May's devastating quake that killed at least 70,000 people.

The Olympic torch was paraded in the capital of Sichuan today on its journey to Beijing, where the Games open on Friday.

The 6.0-magnitude quake was epicentred in Sichuan's Qingchuan county, 778 miles southwest of Beijing, the US Geological Survey said.

Five people were seriously injured in the tremor, which had toppled a bridge cutting off a national highway, and cut roads to at least three villages, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Authorities had mobilised 200 paramilitary troops and militia to conduct relief and rescue work, but they would have to enter affected areas by foot, Xinhua said.

The county's Communist Party secretary was leading a team to the area and the scale of the damage was still being investigated, the agency said.

Qingchuan, badly hit by May's 7.9 magnitude earthquake, has suffered a number of strong aftershocks in recent months.

A series of aftershocks hit the county late last month, killing one person and injured more than a dozen, state media said.

Chinese officials have warned of a tough reconstruction task for remote counties in Sichuan, which included housing millions of displaced and impoverished residents and rebuilding the local economy.