A strong earthquake of magnitude 7.1 hit a remote and mountainous part of China’s western Xinjiang region early Tuesday, injuring six people and causing structural damage to more than 100 houses, according to state media reports.
Earthquake strikes near Kyrgyzstan border
The quake occurred at 2:04 a.m. local time (1804 GMT Monday) in Wushi county, also known as Uqturpan county, in Aksu prefecture near the border with Kyrgyzstan, the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said. The epicenter was located at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), the CENC said.
The quake was felt strongly in nearby cities, including the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar and Hotan in southern Xinjiang, as well as across the border in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, where residents of the largest city, Almaty, fled their homes and gathered outside in the cold weather, Reuters reported.
The quake was followed by more than 40 aftershocks above magnitude 3, the CENC said.
Rescue efforts underway
The government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region posted on its official Weibo account that two people were seriously injured and four had minor injuries. In addition, 47 houses collapsed, 78 houses were damaged and some agricultural buildings were affected.
The government said it had dispatched more than 200 rescue workers and hundreds more were on standby. It also sent tents, quilts, clothes, food and water to the quake-hit areas.
The Xinjiang railway authority immediately sealed off routes in areas affected by the quake and suspended 27 trains, Xinhua reported. Two major power lines near the epicenter were also downed, but electricity was quickly restored, Xinhua said.
Seismically active region
The quake struck in the Tian Shan mountain range, a seismically active region that has experienced several large earthquakes in the past. The largest quake in the area in the past century was a 7.1-magnitude one in 1978 about 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the north of Tuesday’s quake, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The USGS said the quake occurred as a result of strike-slip faulting, where two blocks of crust slide past each other horizontally. The USGS said the quake was likely related to the complex interaction of the India and Eurasia tectonic plates, which are converging at a rate of about 40 millimeters (1.6 inches) per year.
The quake zone is a remote, sparsely populated and high-altitude area, with an average elevation of more than 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), CCTV said. Five villages are located within a radius of 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the epicenter, which is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Wushi county’s main urban area, Xinhua reported.
Wushi county has a population of 205,000 people, according to China’s latest census in 2020. The majority of the residents are Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that has been subjected to a sweeping crackdown by the Chinese government in recent years, involving mass detention, surveillance and restrictions on religious and cultural life.