Major 7.0 earthquake hits China-Kyrgyzstan border

23 Jan 2024 10:46am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

BEIJING - A major 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck along the mountainous China-Kyrgyzstan border on Tuesday, triggering warnings of potentially widespread damage though no casualties were immediately reported.

Local authorities dispatched a team to reach the quake's epicentre, the Xinhua state news agency said, while some 800 people were on stand-by ready for any large disaster relief mission.

The quake was registered just after 2:00 am (1800 GMT Monday) at a depth of 13 kilometres in China's Xinjiang region, some 140 kilometres (85 miles) west of the city of Aksu.

Two residential houses and livestock sheds collapsed in the area near the epicentre, in rural Wushi County, Xinhua reported, while electricity was temporarily knocked out.

Local TV channels in the Indian capital New Delhi reported strong tremors in the city, about 1,400 kilometres away.

One Aksu resident told Xinhua that people rushed outside for safety amid the shaking, despite the frigid early morning temperatures hovering around -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cao Yanglong, in the city on a business trip, told the state news agency that while on the 21st floor of a hotel, he felt like he was "going to be shaken out of bed."

People also fled their homes to seek refuge in the street in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, according to an AFP reporter, after the quake caused walls to shake and furniture to shift.

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Bohobek Azhikeev, head of the Kyrgyz Ministry for Emergency Situations, said in a video message that "no casualties or damage have been registered in the city of Bishkek."

- Aftershocks -

Five villages are located within 20 kilometres of the epicentre, according to Xinhua, and a slew of small earthquakes followed in the area, with magnitudes as high as 5.5.

"Extensive damage is probable," the United States Geological Survey report on the earthquake said.

Authorities in Kazakhstan also reported tremors, though without any casualties or major destruction confirmed so far.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, citizens streamed outside following the quake, according to images posted on social media and by local news outlets.

Tuesday's earthquake came the day after a landslide buried dozens of people and killed at least eight in the southwest of China.

A December quake in the northwest of the country killed 148 people and displaced thousands in Gansu province.

That quake was China's deadliest since 2014, when more than 600 people were killed in southwestern Yunnan province.

In the December earthquake, subzero temperatures made the aid operation launched in response even more challenging, with survivors huddled around outdoor fires to keep warm. - AFP