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Rescuers are in operation at Caotan Village of Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County in Haidong City,<strong>888slot</strong> northwest China's Qinghai Province, Dec. 19, 2023. Eleven people have been confirmed dead in northwest China's Qinghai Province, after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake jolted the neighboring Gansu Province late Monday evening, according to local authorities. The epicenter was located just 5 km from the border between the two provinces. Many areas in Qinghai have felt strong tremors.(Photo: Xinhua)

Rescuers are in operation at Caotan Village of Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County in Haidong City, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Dec. 19, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua)

While a 6.2-magnitude earthquake jolted Jishishan county in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Northwest China's Gansu Province, on Monday at midnight, another 5.5-magnitude earthquake occurred near the city of Artux in the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on Tuesday morning. 

Analysts said that the two earthquakes have no direct connection. However, Artux is located in the Pamir-Tian Shan orogenic belt while Jishishan is located in the Qilian Mountains-Qinling orogenic belt, so both regions are affected by the northward subduction of the Indian Plate, which results in strong tectonic activity on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau.

Experts have called for increased proactive efforts to alleviate earthquakes' impact, such as promoting the mapping of China's seismic zones and increasing public understanding of disaster reduction and prevention.

As of press time, the earthquake in Gansu has caused 113 local deaths and 14 deaths in the adjacent Qinghai Province. Full-scale rescue efforts are being conducted, according to a press conference on Tuesday. Meanwhile, there have been no reports of any casualties or property damage from the one in Artux in Xinjiang. 

Jishishan county in Gansu Province is located on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, which is part of the North-South seismic zone. The earthquake was a reverse fault earthquake with the fault along the northwestern ridge of Laji Mountain, Xu Xiwei, director of the National Institute of Natural Hazards and also professor at the China University of Geosciences, told the Global Times. 

China is located on the Eurasian Plate, with the southern part being squeezed by the Indian Ocean Plate, and the Pacific Plate subducting westward, squeezing the central and eastern regions of the country. China is simultaneously affected by the compression of the three major plates, with active faults in some areas. The Qinghai-Xizang Plateau and Xinjiang are located in the forefront of the collision between the Indian Ocean Plate and the Eurasian Plate, according to Xu.

There is no direct connection between the two earthquakes that happened in Gansu and Xinjiang. In terms of geological structure, Gansu and Xinjiang are both located on the North-South seismic belt while occasional earthquakes are a normal part of crustal energy release, Wang Tun, head of a key earthquake early warning laboratory in China's Sichuan Province, told the Global Times.

Xu noted that the major reasons for the casualties in the Jishishan earthquake are due to various factors, including the relatively dense population in the affected areas, and people being asleep during late night, making them unable to take cover in time. 

He noted that more basic work for earthquake disaster prevention should be carried out, including promoting the mapping of active faults in China to provide a scientific basis for urban planning, construction, and seismic design of engineering projects. Buildings should also be constructed away from active fault lines, avoid steep slope areas and incorporate enhanced seismic resistance facilities.

Moreover, public awareness of earthquake prevention and disaster reduction should be improved to reduce casualties during disasters, said Xu. 

For the past two decades, China has worked to strengthen earthquake resistance capacity of rural areas. Wang noted that Gansu and Sichuan also fall within the scope of this improvement drive, with buildings in many areas seeing improved earthquake resistance compared to the past. However, the earthquake in Gansu shows that more efforts should be made in this field.

In recent years, China has also strengthened the issuance of earthquake early warnings to the public through television, mobile phones, loudspeakers, and other means. The Earthquake Early Warning System, jointly developed by the Institute of Care-life and the China Earthquake Administration, issued early warnings for this earthquake, providing warning to the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture located 56 kilometers from the epicenter 12 seconds before the quake, and more than 20 seconds in adjacent regions, including Gansu's capital city Lanzhou. 

This earthquake is the 80th destructive earthquake successfully predicted by the Earthquake Early Warning System since 2011. Wang said that promoting earthquake early warning services is also an important way to reduce casualties in disasters.

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