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Magnitude-7.3 quake damages homes in Xinjiang
Publication Date : 13-02-2014
A magnitude-7.3 earthquake and a string of aftershocks struck a sparsely populated area in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Wednesday afternoon causing damage to houses and sheepfolds.
No casualties were reported after the powerful quake struck Yutian county at 5:19pm on Wednesday, or after an estimated 143 tremors rattled the area. Twenty of the aftershocks registered higher than 3 on the Richter scale, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.
At least 350 houses and 260 sheepfolds in Yutian, located in Hotan prefecture, were damaged and some livestock killed, local news portal ts.cn reported.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang ordered local authorities to immediately assess the damage caused by the earthquakes and carry out any necessary emergency rescue efforts.
Despite the initial quake's high magnitude, its epicenter was located about 100 km from the urban areas of Yutian county - the closest township is located 50 km from the focus - significantly diminishing the chances of severe property damage or of mass casualties.
A waitress at Bolin Hotel in Yutian who gave her name as Cao said the initial quake was so strong she could barely stand.
"The lights were shaking strongly. Everybody in the hotel started running out. It was empty in a minute," she said.
Gu Li, a waitress at Niya Hotel in Minfeng county, said several flower pots and paintings fell to the ground when the earthquake hit.
"It was such chaos," she said.
Residents of the urban areas of Yutian county have been evacuated, and local authorities have dispatched more than 20 rescuers to the areas affected by the quake.
Yutian county is located in a seismic zone that is at high risk for earthquakes.
The area around the epicenter has experienced more than 42 earthquakes above magnitude 5 since 1900, including six earthquakes of magnitude 6 and four earthquakes of magnitude 7, according to local earthquake authorities.
The most recent earthquake above a magnitude of 7 struck in 2008 when a magnitude-7.3 quake hit the area. No casualties were reported.
Liu Jie, an earthquake forecaster with the China Earthquake Networks Center, said the area is unlikely to be hit again with earthquakes of magnitude 7 or above in the short term.
"The strongest aftershock would be between magnitude 5 and 6," he predicted.
Wang Jian, spokesman for the Earthquake Administration of Xinjiang, said buildings in the region are highly resistant to quakes. He said earthquakes of magnitude 5 and above normally lead to casualties and severe damage to buildings.
"But there has not been a single casualty from earthquakes in Xinjiang in recent years and only a few people have been injured. This is because of the high earthquake proof index of the region's buildings," he said.
Located in Xinjiang's southwest, Yutian is mostly an agrarian region and 98.3 percent of its people are Uygur.