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 damaging or collapsing more than 120 homes in freezing cold weather, authorities said.
Quake epicenter near Kyrgyzstan border
The quake struck Wushi county, also known as Uqturpan county, in Aksu prefecture near the Kyrgyzstan border shortly after 2 a.m. local time, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The quake’s epicenter was at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC).
The quake was the latest in a series of seismic events and natural disasters to hit the vast country’s western regions. In October last year, a 6.4-magnitude quake killed three people and injured dozens in Qinghai province. In July, heavy rains triggered floods and landslides that killed more than 300 people in Henan province.
Rescue efforts underway amid aftershocks
State broadcaster CCTV said there were several aftershocks since the main quake, registering up to 4.5 magnitude. Tremors were felt as far away as the neighboring countries Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Nearly 200 rescue workers have been dispatched to the quake zone, and hundreds more are being assembled, Xinhua reported. More than 50 vehicles and four sniffer dogs were also sent to assist the search and rescue operations.
The quake caused two houses to collapse and downed two major power lines near the epicenter, though electricity was quickly restored, according to Xinhua. The Xinjiang railway authority immediately sealed off routes in areas affected by the quake and suspended 27 trains, Xinhua reported.
Six people hospitalized, child rescued from rubble
Three people were hospitalized in a township 26 kilometers (16 miles) from the epicenter, state broadcaster CCTV reported. A child was rescued from the rubble of their house in that township, the broadcaster said.
Another three people were injured in Wushi county’s main urban area, where more than 120 houses were damaged or collapsed, Xinhua reported. The county has a population of 205,000 people, according to China’s latest census in 2020.
The quake’s epicenter is a remote, mountainous and sparsely populated area at an altitude above 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), CCTV said. Five villages are located within a radius of 20 kilometers from the epicenter, which is about 50 kilometers from Wushi county’s main urban area, Xinhua reported.
Regional impact and response
Heavy tremors were felt in cities hundreds of miles away, including the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar and Hotan in southern Xinjiang. Videos posted by Xinjiang residents on Chinese social media show lights swinging and crashing onto the floor, and crowds taking shelter outside in the streets, wrapped in winter jackets and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped as low as -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
The tremors were also felt across the border in Kyrgyzstan, according to the United States Geological Survey. In nearby Kazakhstan, residents of the country’s largest city, Almaty, fled their homes and gathered outside despite cold weather, some dressed in pajamas and slippers, Reuters reported.
The quake was also felt as far away as Uzbekistan, Reuters reported.
The Chinese government expressed its condolences to the victims and offered its assistance to the local authorities, Xinhua reported. The foreign ministry said China was ready to provide humanitarian aid to the neighboring countries if needed, according to Xinhua.