A 7.0-magnitude earthquake has struck along the China-Kyrgyzstan border, raising concerns of widespread damage. The earthquake, centred in Wushu county, Aksu prefecture, occurred shortly after 2 am local time (GMT +8) prompting the dispatch of approximately 200 rescuers to the epicentre, as reported by the China Earthquake Networks Center and state-run Xinhua press agency.
Reports from the Associated Press indicate that six people have been injured, with over 120 homes suffering damage or collapse in the cold weather. Two individuals sustained serious injuries, while four had minor injuries. Additionally, 47 houses collapsed, 78 houses were damaged, and some agricultural structures collapsed, according to the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Despite downed power lines, electricity was swiftly restored, as reported by Aksu authorities. State broadcaster CCTV mentioned several aftershocks, registering up to 4.5 magnitude, following the main quake.
The earthquake struck a rural area primarily populated by Uyghurs, a group that has faced a state campaign of forced assimilation and mass detention in recent years. China’s National Fire and Rescue Administration shared a video on social media depicting firefighters en route to the quake’s epicentre. Residents were seen standing outside in winter jackets, and images posted displayed a cracked wall with fallen chunks.
The tremors were also felt in neighbouring countries like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In Almaty, Kazakhstan, people evacuated their homes to seek refuge in the streets. Even in the Indian capital, New Delhi, located approximately 1,400 km away, local TV channels reported strong tremors.
The U.S. Geological Survey warned of possible casualties, though none were immediately reported in the mountainous, rural area where the earthquake struck. The report stated that significant damage was expected and a widespread region had been affected by the earthquake.
Wushu County, at the epicentre, is experiencing temperatures well below zero. This earthquake follows closely on the heels of a landslide in southwestern China, where dozens were buried, resulting in at least eleven fatalities. In December, another quake in the northwest claimed 148 lives and displaced thousands in Gansu province, marking China’s deadliest earthquake since 2014. The challenging weather conditions add further complexity to the ongoing rescue and aid efforts.