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Magnitude 7.1 Earthquake Hits China Killing Three People

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit a remote part of Xinjiang region in China on Tuesday at around 2 AM, killing at least three people and injuring six. The earthquake occurred near the Kyrgyzstan border in Wushi County, also known as Uchturpen County. At least 44 people were injured in Kyrgyzstan. Tremors were felt hundreds of miles away in other Central Asian countries, as well.

More than 12,000 citizens evacuated the area. Two major power lines collapsed near the quake's epicenter, but power was quickly restored. Rescue teams rushed to the area, having about 1,000 workers there by midday. Teams have been going through the rubble caused by the earthquake as temperatures are expected to drop over the next three days. According to the China Meteorology Agency, the cold weather is expected to reach as low as -9.4° Fahrenheit (-23° Celsius). Temporary shelters were put in place for people who had to evacuate or lost their homes.

The epicenter was located 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level in the mountains, said Zhang Yongjiu, the head of the Xinjiang Earthquake Administration, during a news conference. There are five villages within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the epicenter. The main urban area of Wushi County is a little over 30 miles (50 kilometers) away from it. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the quake was a little over eight miles (12 kilometers) deep. 

Twenty-seven trains were suspended in response by the Xinjiang railway authorities, closing any routes in affected areas. By 11 AM, the China Earthquake Networks Center reported over 50 aftershocks above magnitude 3.0.

Around 78 houses were damaged, and 48 homes were destroyed. Authorities said that the majority of the houses that collapsed were built by residents in remote areas. The recent public housing building built by the government was not damaged.

The population of the region the earthquake is mainly made up of Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnicity who are largely Muslim. The Uyghurs have been subject to forced assimilation, mass detention, and strict limitations on their religion and culture as part of a sweep done by the Chinese government in the last few years. The region is militarized heavily. A report done by the United Nations stated that China has committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs, which Beijing has denied. In 2022, Xinjiang authorities reported that Wushi County had a population of around 233,000 citizens. 

It is the second earthquake in China in just a month. In December 2023, a 5.9–6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai in northwest China, killing 151 people. It was the most fatal earthquake that struck China in nine years.

The last largest earthquake that hit the Xinjiang region was in 1978 and also had a magnitude of 7.1. It happened just 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred on Tuesday in Wushi County. 

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