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M6.8 earthquake hits Xinjiang
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The local authority in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Monday confirmed the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook its far-flung western mountainous area Sunday night didn't cause fatalities other than damage to some rural houses.

The earthquake struck Wuqia, a county on the Xinjiang western border, at 11:52 p.m.. The epicenter was at 39.6 degrees north latitude and 73.9 degrees east longitude, a mountainous area about 100 km away from the county seat of Wuqia, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture. The earthquake source was 33 km underground.

The Xinjiang earthquake monitoring network on Monday said as of 11 a.m. it counted 68 aftershocks, including a 5.7-magnitude tremor at 12:11 a.m. on Monday.

Party and government authorities in Kizilsu Kirgiz, which exercises jurisdiction over Wuqia, launched a quake-response mechanism shortly after they were informed of Sunday's quake.

Two special teams, consisting of quake specialists, health workers and security officers, arrived at the epicenter by 3:30 a.m. to make inspections and assess the damage, according to Liu Junhai, a Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefectural government deputy chief.

"Cadres were assigned to go door to door to make inspections and persuade those who hadn't lived in quake-resistant shelters to move in," said Liu.

Altogether, 225 rural houses sustained damage in the quake, including four residences that toppled in the temblor. Telecom facilities that had partial damage were repaired.

In Simuhana, the nearest village to the epicenter, home to 50 households with 200 people, more than 80 houses had cracks and broken windows. Mobile telecom service, however, was still available.

Villagers said they felt the quake when it struck and nobody was harmed.

A Xinhua reporter said residents in Kashi, another city near the epicenter, also felt the quake.

There was also a power cut at Ilkeshtan, a border checkpoint about 1 km away from the township seat of Jigen, where the epicenter was located. It was not immediately known when the power supply would resume.

"Farmers and herders in the quake zone were pacified. Traffic to the area was also unaffected," said the official, who added that detailed damage needed further investigation.

Wuqia County is in the Pamirs in southwestern Xinjiang at the conjunction of the southern side of the Tianshan and Kunlun mountains.

With a population of 42,002, Wuqia, 1,500 km away from Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, is quake prone. Since 1889, there have been seven powerful quakes measuring more than 7.0 on the Richter scale.

The county was hit by a 3.8-magnitude quake on Sept. 22.

(Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2008)

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