March 3rd, 2024

Strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake strikes remote western China, state media say

By The Associated Press on January 22, 2024.

BEIJING (AP) – A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck a remote part of China’s western Xinjiang region early Tuesday, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xinhua cited the China Earthquake Networks Center as saying the quake rocked Wushu county in Aksu prefecture shortly after 2 a.m. local time.

There were no immediate reports of damage or fatalities.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake occurred in the Tian Shan mountain range, “a seismically active region, though earthquakes of this size occur somewhat infrequently.” It said the largest quake in the area in the past century was a 7.1-magnitude one in 1978 about 200 kilometers to the north of one early Tuesday.

State broadcaster CCTV said there were several aftershocks since the main quake, registering up to 4.5 magnitude.

The earthquake struck in a rural area populated mostly by Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnicity that is predominantly Muslim and has been the target of a state campaign of forced assimilation and mass detention in recent years.

Wushu county at the quake’s epicenter is recording temperatures well below zero, with lows of up to negative 18 degrees C (just below zero F) forecast by the China Meteorological Administration this week. Parts of northern and central China have shivered under frigid cold snaps this winter, with authorities closing schools and highways several times due to snowstorms.

China’s National Fire and Rescue Administration posted a video on Chinese social media platform Weibo showing firefighters driving to the quake’s epicenter. A video posted by a Weibo user showed residents standing outside on the streets bundled in winter jackets, and a photo posted by state broadcaster CCTV showed a cracked wall with chunks fallen off.

Tremors were felt as far away as the neighboring countries Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In the Kazakh capital of Almaty, people left their homes, the Russian news agency Tass reported.

Videos posted on the social messaging platform Telegram showed people in Almaty running down the stairs of apartment blocks and standing outside in the street after they felt strong tremors. Some people appeared to have left their homes quickly and were pictured standing outside in freezing temperatures in shorts.

An earthquake shook China’s northwestern Gansu province in December, killing 151 people. It was the deadliest earthquake in China in nine years.

Most of China’s earthquakes strike in the western part of the country, including Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as the Xinjiang region and Tibet.

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