A MODERATE earthquake shook Tangshan early yesterday, striking fear into millions of Chinese. In 1976, a much stronger tremor in the same city killed 240,000 - and heralded the death of Mao Zedong. Superstition now surrounds years in which the lunar calendar counts the eighth month twice. The so-called double-August occurred in 1976 and began on August 26 this year. It lasts until October 23. Yesterday's quake, registering 5.0 on the Richter scale and felt 160 kilometres away in Beijing, fulfils the premonition that natural disasters and cataclysmic political events occur in leap-August. Soothsayers suggest that just as the death of Mao followed shortly after the 1976 quake, the death of ailing patriarch Deng Xiaoping might be foretold. Hundreds of panic-stricken people ran into the streets as yesterday's tremor raced through the industrial city at 6.26 am. This time, however, there was no devastation or casualties. About 40 aftershocks, the strongest of which measured 2.5 on Richter, were recorded later in the day. 'It was terrifying. The building shook and I and my neighbours all ran out into the street,' said a telephone operator. 'No one was hurt and no buildings fell down, although some old peasant homes were damaged at the epicentre,' Han Shuhua at the Tangshan Seismology Bureau said. 'There is no danger. It was only a small earthquake and we have had a hundred small quakes this year.' Another member of the bureau, however, said the tremor could been seen as an aftershock of the 1976 earthquake, but added that he did not believe the Double-Eight superstition. 'Aftershock activities can last a long time but the impact will not be very strong,' he said. At least 240,000 people died in the 1976 quake and hundreds of thousands were injured when heavy concrete buildings collapsed. The entire city had to be rebuilt after several quakes registering 7.0 on the Richter scale. Authorities in Tangshan have sought to calm residents by broadcasting on television and radio that there is unlikely to be another strong earthquake. Although the Tangshan Seismology Institute failed to predict this one, the State Seismology Bureau forecast in March that China would experience a number of strong quakes in 1995 because a new period of seismic activity was beginning. This year China also said it would implement a nation-wide anti-disaster programme to protect its largest cities, dams and agriculture areas from earthquakes.