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‘Magnitude 7.1 earthquake hits remote western China’

People gather in a street after leaving their flats in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after the earthquake (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)
People gather in a street after leaving their flats in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after the earthquake (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has struck a remote part of China’s western Xinjiang region, destroying homes, felling power lines and prompting authorities to suspend trains, state media has reported.

The earthquake rocked Uchturpan county – Wushu county in Mandarin – in Aksu prefecture just after 2am local time, Xinhua cited the China Earthquake Networks Centre as saying.

Two houses collapsed, Aksu authorities said, and around 200 emergency rescuers were dispatched to the earthquake’s epicentre, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The Xinjiang railway authority suspended dozens of trains in the region and sealed off the affected sections, CCTV reported.

The earthquake downed power lines but electricity was quickly restored to the region, Aksu authorities reported.

There were no immediate reports of deaths.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake happened in the Tian Shan mountain range, “a seismically active region, though earthquakes of this size occur somewhat infrequently”.

It said the largest earthquake in the area in the past century was a 7.1-magnitude one in 1978 about 124 miles to the north of the one early on Tuesday.

People drink tea in a street after leaving their in apartment buildings after an earthquake in Almaty, Kazakhstan
People drink tea in a street after leaving their in apartment buildings in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after an earthquake (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)

The broadcaster CCTV said there were several aftershocks after the main earthquake, with two registering above a magnitude of five.

The earthquake struck in a rural area populated mostly by Uyghurs, a Turkish ethnicity which is predominantly Muslim and has been the target of a state campaign of forced assimilation and mass detention in recent years.

Wushu county at the quake’s epicentre is recording temperatures well below zero, with lows of up to minus 18C forecast by the China Meteorological Administration this week.

Parts of northern and central China have shivered under frigid cold snaps this winter, with authorities closing schools and motorways several times because of snowstorms.

China’s National Fire and Rescue Administration posted a video on Chinese social media platform Weibo showing firefighters driving to the quake’s epicentre.

People sit inside their cars in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after the earthquake
People sit inside their cars in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after the earthquake (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)

A video posted by a Weibo user showed residents standing outside on the streets bundled in winter jackets, and a photograph posted by state broadcaster CCTV showed a cracked wall with chunks fallen off.

Tremors were felt in neighbouring countries Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

In the Kazakh capital of Almaty, people left their homes, the Russian news agency Tass reported.

Videos posted on the social messaging platform Telegram showed people in Almaty running down the stairs of apartment blocks and standing outside in the street after they felt strong tremors.

Some people appeared to have left their homes quickly and were pictured standing outside in freezing temperatures in shorts.

An earthquake shook China’s northwestern Gansu province in December, killing 151 people.

It was the deadliest earthquake in China in nine years.

Most of China’s earthquakes strike in the western part of the country, including Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as the Xinjiang region and Tibet.