Quake in Xinjiang destroys homes, causes injuries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am


A mountainous area of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was struck by a strong earthquake yesterday morning, injuring at least 34 people, one seriously, and damaging more than 4,700 houses.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.3, while China's Earthquake Networks Centre estimated it at 6.6.

The quake struck at 5am about 200 kilometres west of Urumqi , the capital of Xinjiang, at a depth of seven kilometres.

By noon, 189 aftershocks had been recorded, with the most powerful of magnitude 4.2, according to China Earthquake Administration.

In Xinyuan county, 24 people were injured and several hundred cattle and sheep were killed, with the direct economic losses estimated at 126 million yuan (HK$155 million), according to the county's propaganda office, the China News Service reported.

Sun Jize , of the county's seismic station, told the Sunday Morning Post that 24 of the injured were elderly herdsmen who lived at the Gongnaisi Forest Farm, an area popular with tourists, which was near the epicentre.

'Very few tourists stay the night at the farm, and local herdsmen usually only spend their winters there, while in summer they go to somewhere else while their animals graze,' he said. 'So when the earthquake struck, there were not many people at the farm.'

Sun said the houses on the farm were quite old and poorly built. The homes of all 70 families in Alashan village were damaged or had collapsed, he said.

In neighbouring Hejing county, 10 people were injured, including local residents, workers at a mine near the forest farm and tourists whose buses were hit by falling rocks on a mountainous section of National Highway 218. All were evacuated to a hospital in nearby Xinyuan, said Cairen Jiafu , of Hejing county's emergency control office.

About 30 landslides blocked traffic on some sections of the highway, the China News Service reported. About 40 workers were trapped on the mountain, while 80 tourists were cut off at Wenquangou Spring Resort, as of yesterday afternoon, people. com.cn news portal reported.

China Central Television reported that residents in Urumqi felt shakes lasting nearly 20 seconds.

Xiu Jigang, vice-director of the China Earthquake Administration, and Wang Haitao , director of the Xinjiang Earthquake Bureau, arrived at the Gongnaisi Forest Farm at noon yesterday.

In November, Xinyuan county was hit by two major quakes, including one of magnitude 6.