Quake in rural China kills six; thousands of homes damaged

BEIJING: A strong earthquake hit a rural part of China’s far western Xinjiang region on Friday, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and destroying or damaging thousands of homes, the government and state media said.

Many traditional houses in the mainly ethnic Uighur region collapsed when the shallow 6.4 magnitude quake struck about 160 km northwest of the southern city of Hotan, emergency officials said.

The dead included a father and son, the government-run China National Emergency Broadcasting said on its website.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs added that at least 3,000 homes either collapsed or were seriously damaged and 1,000 tents were being sent to the region.

State news agency Xinhua put the number of injured at about 50.

“If many people are gathered in one place during an earthquake, it can lead to a serious disaster, but in this case, there were relatively few people so it isn’t so serious,” China Earthquake Networks Centre researcher Sun Shihong told state broadcaster China Central Television.

Pictures on social media and state television showed cracks on the walls of buildings and other minor damage.

Earthquakes frequently strike China. A quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.

Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, is one of China’s most politically sensitive regions following years of violence, blamed by the government on Islamist militants.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s own repressive policies and religious and cultural restrictions have provoked unrest, an accusation the government denies.

Drone used for monitoring

BEIJING: China’s air force dispatched a drone to the site of an earthquake in the far western region of Xinjiang on Friday to help in monitoring work, in what it said was the first time it had used an unmanned aircraft for such a task.

China is developing an ambitious drone programme for use at home, and also for export, as part of modernisation efforts for the world’s largest armed forces.

The air force said in a statement on the Defence Ministry’s website that the single drone was dispatched to the southern part of Xinjiang shortly after the quake struck and it “got a timely understanding of disaster relief needs”.

It flew for 100 minutes over the quake zone, sending back accurate “scientific facts” about the situation on the ground. The ministry gave no other details.