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Ms 7.9 (NEIC), Mw 7.7 (NEIC)

5 km

Powerful earthquake strikes western China

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November 14, 2001

LHASA, XIZANG, CHINA - A powerful earthquake registering a preliminary magnitude of Ms 7.9 (NEIC, Mw 7.7 (NEIC) occurred on the remote high plateau of western China near the Quighai-Xinjiang border. There have been no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

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According to the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), the earthquake occurred at 5:26 p.m. local time (09:26 UTC) about 1440 miles west of Beijing and 440 miles north of Lhasa, Xizang, along the northern margin of the Tibetan Plateau at the foot of the Kunlun Mountains. Click on the map to enlarge.

The focal depth was shallow and placed at 5 km beneath the surface. A preliminary fault plane solution from NEIC indicates high-angled reverse-slip motion along a north-northeast trending plane. The fault plane solution from Harvard Geophysical Laboratory (HRV) indicates a significant oblique component (see Harvard solution).

A Chinese newspaper, Xinhua/Sohu.com, has published a picture indicating that substantial surface fault ruptures had occurred along the Kunlun mountains where the earthquake occurred. While looking at the photo enlargements, notice the man in the foreground and the group of people in the background for scale. French scientists at Laboratoire de Tectonique IPGP-CNRS have commented that the fault motion appears purely strike-slip locally with several meters of sinistral slip and fault displacements may reach 250 km (155 miles) in length. (See The Rupture Zone)

The earthquake occurred in a relatively remote region of the country with few settlements and information has been slow to eminate from the country. Did you feel this earthquake?

A Reuters wire report indicates the earthquake damaged the Tibet-Qinghai railroad and knocked out communications lines to the area, but there was no information on causalities or injuries.

Some temporary housing for railroad construction workers was damaged as were small, widely scattered buildings, including water pump houses, military outposts and railway maintenance stations.

Several landslides were reported in the Kunlun mountains but did not cause any causalities.

Aftershock have begun to roll in and so far, three have registered in the mid M5 range. See a list of aftershocks.

A powerful M7.9 earthquake occurred about 120 miles to the southwest on November 8, 1997, nearly four years ago to the day. According to Laboratoire de Tectonique IPGP-CNRS, that earthquake produced 170 km of surface fault ruptures with displacements up to 7 m of left-lateral slip. See a list of historical large earthquakes in northern Tibet.

This is the largest earthquake to strike the planet since the Southern Peru M8.4 earthquake that hit on June 23, and the 14th M7+ this year. See a list of M7s in 2001.

More information will be provided as soon as possible and this page will automatically refresh every 6 minutes to give you the latest news.

Additional Seismic information links:

Seismograms of the earthquake series from nearby USGS stations:
Mainstream media news reports:
Report update: 7:13:00 AM, Friday, February 1, 2002

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