7.1-magnitude earthquake rattles part of western China; 47 homes collapse

State broadcaster CCTV said 14 aftershocks have been measured, two of them above 5 magnitude


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Published: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 7:30 AM

Authorities in China's far western Xinjiang region say six people were injured and more than 120 houses were damaged or destroyed in Tuesday's earthquake.

The government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region posted on its official Weibo account that two were seriously injured and four had minor injuries. In addition, 47 houses collapsed, 78 houses were damaged and some agricultural buildings collapsed.

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Uchturpan county, called Wushi county in Mandarin, in Aksu prefecture shortly after 2am, the China Earthquake Networks Center said. Around 200 rescuers were dispatched to the epicenter, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

State broadcaster CCTV said 14 aftershocks have been measured, two of them above 5 magnitude.

Uchturpan county at the quake's epicenter is recording temperatures well below freezing, with lows down 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.

In Yunnan province in China's southwest, rescue workers were continuing to try to find victims buried by a landslide Monday in the village of Liangshui. Eleven bodies have been recovered, and two survivors were rescued after the landslide buried 47 people in 18 homes in freezing cold and falling snow.

The tremors from Tuesday's earthquake were felt hundreds of kilometres (miles) away. Ma Shengyi, a 30-year-old pet shop owner living in Tacheng, 600 kilometres (373 miles) from the epicentre, said her dogs started barking before she felt her apartment building shudder. The quake was so strong her neighbours ran downstairs. Ma rushed to her bathroom and started to cry.

“There’s no point in running away if it’s a big earthquake," Ma said. “I was scared to death."

Chandeliers swung, buildings were evacuated and a media office building near the epicenter shook for a full minute, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. A video posted by a Chinese internet user on Weibo showed residents standing outside on the streets bundled in winter jackets, and a photo posted by CCTV showed a cracked wall with chunks fallen off.

Tremors were felt across the Xinjiang region and in 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 Telegram messaging platform 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.

Earthquakes are common in western China, including in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as the Xinjiang region and Tibet.

An earthquake that struck Gansu in December killed 151 people and was China's deadliest earthquake in nine years.


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