At least 17 killed in China quake
Thousands left homeless in 5.5-magnitude earthquake
Wang Zhizhao, 9, suffered a cut to her face while fleeing her home after the quake.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Thousands of people are sleeping in tents and open-air courtyards early Sunday after a moderate earthquake destroyed thousands of homes in eastern China, killing at least 17 people and injuring hundreds of others, according to Chinese officials and state-run media reports.
Relief operations continued through the night, as China's government rushed in 1,000 tents to house those left homeless by the temblor.
A 20-member team of seismologists from Beijing arrived in the quake-struck area to monitor the area for potential aftershocks.
At least one aftershock, measuring 4.4 in magnitude, frightened survivors, but the seismologists are saying they believe the worst is over.
The 5.5-magnitude quake struck about 8:49 a.m. Saturday (00:49 a.m. GMT) in an area dotted with small farming villages, according to China's Xinhua news agency and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
"I was wiping my table," one woman told state television. "I live on the seventh floor. Suddenly, everything was moving. The metal chair fell on the floor and knocked me down. I heard the neighbors shouting, so I ran downstairs immediately."
The quake's epicenter was on the Hubei-Jiangxi provincial border, about 24 kilometers (15 miles) west-southwest of the city of Jiujiang in Jiangxi province -- home to 361,000 people, according to the USGS -- and 88 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Huangshi in Hubei province, which has a population of approximately 569,000 people. ( Watch how the earthquake hit the Chinese countryside -- :50 )
Many homes in the area are poorly built, but are mainly single-story, and there have been no reports of anyone trapped beneath the earthquake debris.
Seismologists are advising people to stay outdoors because the houses left standing may have serious structural damage and could collapse in an aftershock.
In Jiujiang county, more than 8,000 homes collapsed and 29,000 were damaged, according to Xinhua. In Ruichang, more than 500 houses collapsed and 100,000 were damaged.
The news agency also reported 420,000 Ruichang residents were evacuated. In Jiujiang county, 267 people were injured, while 130 were injured in Ruichang, Xinhua said.
Xinhua reported 14 deaths and 397 people injured in the quake, 20 seriously.
The USGS estimated the quake at 5.5 magnitude, while China's National Seismic Observation Network said it measured 5.7 on the Richter scale.
Xinhua said the quake struck a region between Jiujiang -- which it described as a well-known summer resort on the Yangtze River -- and Ruichang in Jiangxi province.
The quake's epicenter was only 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) deep, the USGS reported.
Earthquakes centered closer to the Earth's surface are generally more intense and can cause more damage.
CNN's Jaime FlorCruz and Judy Kwon contributed to this report.
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