BEIJING: A powerful earthquake of 6.5 magnitude today flattened about 3,000 houses and buildings in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, killing at least six persons and injuring 48 others.
The quake struck Pishan County of Hotan Prefecture at 9:07 AM (local time), with the epicenter recorded at a depth of 10 km, China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said.
Six people have been killed and 40 others injured and about 3,000 houses and other buildings collapsed or were damaged, the Bureau of Civil Affairs in Xinjiang said.
Following the quake, the local administration issued a grade-IV response, the lowest in China’s emergency response system, means a 24-hour alert.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Commission for Disaster Reduction has rushed teams to assist relief work in the quake-hit areas. Around 1,000 tents have been sent to the county.
Over 500 soldiers and militia members from Lanzhou military area command have been dispatched to the quake-hit area. A 22-member medical team was also sent to Pishan.
Shortly after the quake, several minor tremors measuring between 3.0 and 4.6 magnitude rocked the area, the CENC said.
Li Hua, a worker at a state-owned farm in Pishan, told state news agency that he was left dizzied by a jolt that shook the floor of his fourth-floor home and lasted about a minute.
An airport in Hotan has been closed, the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) said in a statement.
Located in southernmost Xinjiang, Pishan is about 1,800 km from the regional capital of Urumqi and covers 39,700 square km. The epicenter is 7.5 km from the county seat.
With a population of 258,000, the county is mainly inhabited by people of Muslim Uygur ethnicity.
Director of the CENC Pan Huaiwe said the quake is unlikely to have triggered a heavy death-toll as the population density in a 50-sq km scope of the epicenter is four persons per sq km, a relatively low density.
But at the time he said as time goes by, death toll and injuries might rise.
Jiang Haikun, director of the CENC’s forecasting department, said the quake is unlikely to trigger an aftershock with a magnitude higher than 6.5, but aftershocks around magnitude 5 are likely.
Mr Jiang said the quake was a result of the pile-up and release of stress in this region and it was not triggered by the Nepal earthquake in April.