Major Earthquake Hits Western China

21 03 2008

BEIJING (AP): A major earthquake struck western China early Friday, but there were no reports of casualties.

The 7.2 magnitude quake hit at 6:33 a.m. (2233 GMT Thursday), about 140 miles southeast of the city of Hotan in southwest Xinjiang province, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

A spokesman for China’s Earthquake Administration confirmed the earthquake, but said it had a 7.3 magnitude.

There were no reports of anyone hurt so far, he said, and the area is sparsely populated.

There were four aftershocks in the region, ranging from 5.0 to 5.2 magnitude, according to a notice on the Earthquake Administration’s Web site.

Xinjiang is a predominantly Muslim region with a culture that is distinctly different from that of China’s ethnic Han majority.

Dale Grant, a USGS geophysicist, described the area as “very seismically active,” and said Friday’s temblor was the biggest there on record.

The Earthquake Administration said the last earthquake in the Hotan region took place in 1992 and had a 5.9 magnitude.

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