Beijing: A powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.2 rocked the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai in northwest China, killing at least 111 people and injuring more than 200 others. The quake struck at 11:59 pm local time on Monday, December 18, 2023, and was felt across a wide area of the region.
According to the China Earthquake Network Center, the quake occurred as a result of shallow strike-slip faulting at the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. It ruptured a fault near the Qilian Mountains, known as the Lenglongling Fault, a segment of the Haiyuan Fault System. The rupture was mostly confined to 0–8 km within the upper crust, and a maximum slip of 3.5 m was estimated at 4 km depth. The evaluated maximum Modified Mercalli intensity was IX (Violent) near the rupture zone.
The quake’s epicenter was in Liugou City, about eight kilometers from Jishishan County in Gansu, where most of the casualties and damage were reported. Qinghai province, which borders the Tibet region of the Himalayas, also felt the strong tremors. The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the quake damaged or destroyed thousands of houses, roads, and other infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, and power lines.
Many villages in the affected area were left without electricity and water supply and faced freezing temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius on Tuesday. The provincial fire and rescue department dispatched 580 rescue workers, 12 sniffer dogs, and more than 10,000 pieces of equipment to the disaster-stricken area. They faced difficulties in reaching some remote and mountainous areas due to landslides and roadblocks.
The Railway Authority suspended passenger and freight trains in the earthquake-hit area and ordered a safety check of railway tracks. Some sections of the Lanzhou–Xinjiang high-speed railway sustained serious damage and traffic was halted until repairs could be completed. The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also damaged by the quake. A 2 m section of the wall in Shandan County, built during the Ming Dynasty, collapsed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his condolences to the victims and their families and ordered them to make every possible effort to reduce the number of casualties and provide relief and assistance to the affected people. He also urged the relevant departments to strengthen earthquake monitoring and prevention and enhance public awareness and education on disaster preparedness.