Western China Shaken by M6+ Earthquake

By Zusmee Byamba

A strong earthquake hit China’s northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Sunday, followed by aftershocks.

The U.S Geological Survey (USGS)  reported that a magnitude of 6.0 earthquake hit the east-northeast of Arzak in western China near the Kyrgyzstan border at 1:27 p.m. (UTC) at a depth of 6.8 miles.

The strong tremor was followed by two other quakes at 2:23 p.m. and 2:55 p.m., both with magnitudes of 4.9 at depths of 6miles, according to the USGS.

Xianjiang earthquake location
Location of Earthquake, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Sunday, Jan 19. (USGS Screenshot)

The Star reported the earthquake’s magnitude as 6.4 at a depth of 10miles followed by at least eight aftershocks. Three people were reported to be injured, one in critical condition.

Residents of the region told Xinhua news that they ran out to the street from their home after feeling the quake, the outlet reported.

Nine passenger trains came to a halt, and railway staff has been dispatched for facility checkout, China.org reported.

Earthquakes in Xinjiang are fairly common. According to USGS, the region has experienced 13 other M6+ earthquakes over the past 50 years. Half a dozen earthquakes of M6.0-6.4 have occurred close to Sunday’s quakes.

In March 1996, a magnitude of 6.3 hit the northwest, destroying 15,000 houses and causing 24 fatalities.

In August 1998, 3,600 homes were destroyed, and three fatalities occurred due to an M6.4 earthquake to the south of the region.

In February 2003, 6.3 magnitude earthquakes to the south caused 260 fatalities, 70,000 collapsed buildings.

The deadliest earthquake was an M7.7 earthquake in August 1902, hitting the northwest region. At least 500 people were reported dead.

The region near the quake’s epicenter is sparsely populated mountain and desert territory. But because many buildings are built from mud bricks or cinder block masonry, significant damage may be likely, USGS wrote in its initial reporting.