Very strong moderately dangerous earthquake in the Xinjiang mountains, China - More damage than initially expected

Earthquake overview : A M6.2 earthquake occurred in the Xinjiang mountains, China. Initially reported by the international agencies as very shallow (read very dangerous), the report of the Chinese authorities came as a relief as this agency mentioned a depth of 30 km.
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Important Update August 13 - 17:29 UTC :
The dame from the M6,2 earthquake in Xinjiang in a so called unpopulated area in the mountains had a more severe impact than earlier expected.
- The earthquake caused 2.64 million CNY damage (around 410,000 USD) in Yutian County.
- 1056 people were affected
- 70 houses were damaged
- 91 livestock pens were destroyed
- 56 large livestock were killed
- 576 small livestock were killed
- 350 people were evacuated to other houses
- Villages and households of farmers and herdsmen in the houses were damaged. They are now in relief tents.

Important Update 18:17 UTC :
- The seismological bureau of Xinjiang reports that 2 groups have rushed to the earthquake zone to carry out rescue work. . According to the  Xinjiang Seismological Bureau the rescue groups did not find casualties and they noticed only minor damage at some older houses.  Always nice to hear such good news (which we expected because of the location of the epicenter)
- The earthquake was followed by two aftershocks, measuring 4.8 and 3.0  on the Richter scale at 18:49 and 18:53 Beijing Time respectively. The quakes occurred in unpopulated areas 5,000 meters above sea level and no casualties were reported, said Wang Qiong, an official with the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Earthquake Bureau.
People in the county seat of Keriya, 200 kilometers away from the epicenter, could hardly feel the quakes, while people in Aqiang township and Pulu village, both 100 kilometers away from the epicenter, felt slight tremors, Yang Shuying, a publicity official of Keriya county. (Courtesy China Daily)

Update 12:40UTC : As we are in a very remote area of China, it may take many hours (probably until tomorrow morning local time) before emergency teams (both aid and assessment teams) have reached the small settlements in the mountains (mountains as high as 6820 meter).

Earthquake epicenter mountains - beautiful but with many earthquake faults - image courtesy and copyright Garmo92

Update 11:47 UTC : The closest populated centers near the epicenter are Keriya and Niya. We do not have specific population numbers for Keriya and Niya, but Keriya county counts 220,000 people and Niya (Minfeng) county 30,000. The biggest city in the greater area is Hotan (also seismological headquarters), but Hotan is far away from the danger zone (282 km).

Update 11:40 UTC : There are NO hydrodams or Nuclear Plants in the vicinity of the epicenter (source GDACS)

Update 11:34 UTC : WAPMERR, the theoretical damage data engine is predicting 0 to 10 deaths and 0 to 100 injured. These numbers refer only to shaking and NOT to landslides. At we think that besides landslides and based on the depth of 30 km, no important damage or injuries will be sustained.
Initial predictions like we are making are taking into account as much as data as we can find. Often local obtained data are the most accurate as these organizations are often highly specialized and have a lot of instruments in the earthquake area. The more instruments, the more accurate data are! The WAPMERR data are based on the UGS data (in this case) which refer to a M6.3 and a depth of less than 10 km. If the Chinese parameters are correct (what we believe), there is a huge difference in damage potential in between the 2 data sets.

The USGS shaking map below is based on a Magnitude of 6.3 at a depth of 9.7 km. The Chinese parameters would considerably weaken the shaking pattern.

Shaking map USGS - courtesy USGS

Update 11:30 UTC : Chinese seismological agency reports a Magnitude of 6.2 at a depth of 30 km. The biggest danger for this earthquake is some landslides in the steeper valleys. Landslides triggered by earthquakes are the most important secondary damage element after tsunamis of course.

A M6.2 earthquake occurred a shortwhile in Hotan district, Xinjiang China
Early reports are mentioning a very shallow earthquake.
We are currently trying to verify the data in China but their servers are down.
In a first overview of the location, the epicenter looks to be in a wilderness area in the mountains with no or very few people around.
Theoretical intensity should not go over VI MMI (strong shaking).
Based on other specialized organizations, the number of people in a radius of 100 km around the epicenter is max. 10000

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : Mw 6.3 (USGS) and Ms 6.2 (China)
UTC Time : Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 10:47:06 UTC
Local time at epicenter : Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 06:47:06 PM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 9.7 km (USGS) and 30 km (China)
Geo-location(s) :
Approx. 100 km of Keriya, China
Approx. 100 km of Keriya, China
282 km (175 miles) ESE of Hotan, China

Links to important maps
Google satellite map showing the epicenter and the surrounding area
Historic earthquakes map
Seismic hazard map
Shaking map
Scientific parameters
Human impact map

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SRC Location UTC Date/time M D INFO
USGS Southern Xinjiang, China Aug 12 13:38 4.3 10 MAP I Felt It
EMSC Southern Xinjiang, China Aug 12 13:38 4.2 42 MAP I Felt It
GEOFON Southern Xinjiang, China Aug 12 13:38 4.2 10 MAP I Felt It


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City/Village where you felt the earthquake *
Street or suburb (area) where you felt the earthquake
Latitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
Longitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
Shaking Strength *
MMI II (Very weak shaking) ?
People :
Felt by persons at rest, on upper floors or favorably placed.
MMI III (Weak shaking) ?
People :
Felt indoors; hanging objects may swing, vibration similar to passing of light trucks, duration may be estimated, may not be recognized as an earthquake.
MMI IV (Light shaking) ?
People :
Generally noticed indoors but not outside. Light sleepers may be awakened. Vibration may be likened to the passing of heavy traffic, or to the jolt of a heavy object falling or striking the building.
Fittings :
Doors and windows rattle. Glassware and crockery rattle. Liquids in open vessels may be slightly disturbed. Standing motorcars may rock.
Structures :
Walls and frames of buildings, and partitions and suspended ceilings in commercial buildings, may be heard to creak.
MMI V (Moderate shaking) ?
People :
Generally felt outside, and by almost everyone indoors. Most sleepers awakened. A few people alarmed.
Fittings :
Small unstable objects are displaced or upset. Some glassware and crockery may be broken. Hanging pictures knock against the wall. Open doors may swing. Cupboard doors secured by magnetic catches may open. Pendulum clocks stop, start, or change rate.
Structures :
Some large display windows cracked. A few earthenware toilet fixtures cracked.
MMI VI (Strong shaking) ?
People Felt by all. People and animals alarmed. Many run outside. Difficulty experienced in walking steadily.
Fittings :
Objects fall from shelves. Pictures fall from walls. Some furniture moved on smooth floors, some unsecured free-standing fireplaces moved. Glassware and crockery broken. Very unstable furniture overturned. Small church and school bells ring. Appliances move on bench or table tops. Filing cabinets or "easy glide" drawers may open (or shut).
Structures :
Slight damage to buildings with low standard. Some stucco or cement plaster falls. Large display windows broken. Damage to a few weak domestic chimneys, some may fall.
Environment :
Trees and bushes shake, or are heard to rustle. Loose material may be dislodged from sloping ground, e.g. existing slides, talus slopes, shingle slides.
MMI VII (Very strong shaking) ?
General alarm. Difficulty experienced in standing. Noticed by motorcar drivers who may stop.
Fittings :
Large bells ring. Furniture moves on smooth floors, may move on carpeted floors. Substantial damage to fragile contents of buildings.
Structures :
Unreinforced stone and brick walls cracked. Low standard buildings cracked with some minor masonry falls. A few instances of damage to buildings of ordinary workmanship. Unbraced parapets, unbraced brick gables, and architectural ornaments fall. Roofing tiles, especially ridge tiles may be dislodged. Many unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, often falling from roof-line. Water tanks Type I burst. A few instances of damage to brick veneers and plaster or cement-based linings. Unrestrained water cylinders (hot-water cylinders) may move and leak. Some common windows cracked. Suspended ceilings damaged.
Environment :
Water made turbid by stirred up mud. Small slides such as falls of sand and gravel banks, and small rock-falls from steep slopes and cuttings. Instances of settlement of unconsolidated or wet, or weak soils. Some fine cracks appear in sloping ground. A few instances of liquefaction (i.e. small water and sand ejections).
MMI VIII (Severe shaking) ?
People Alarm may approach panic. Steering of motorcars greatly affected. Structures : Low standard buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. ordinary workmanship buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged in some cases. A few instances of damage to buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes. Monuments and pre-1976 elevated tanks and factory stacks twisted or brought down. Some pre-1965 infill masonry panels damaged. A few post-1980 brick veneers damaged. Decayed timber piles of houses damaged. Houses not secured to foundations may move. Most unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, some below roof-line, many brought down. Environment : Cracks appear on steep slopes and in wet ground. Small to moderate slides in roadside cuttings and unsupported excavations. Small water and sand ejections and localized lateral spreading adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
MMI IX (Violent shaking) ?
Structures Many low standard buildings destroyed. Ordinary workmanship buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes damaged in some cases, some with flexible frames seriously damaged. Damage or permanent distortion to some buildings and bridges, designed and built to normal use standards. Houses not secured to foundations shifted off. Brick veneers fall and expose frames. Environment : Cracking of ground conspicuous. Landsliding general on steep slopes. Liquefaction effects intensified and more widespread, with large lateral spreading and flow sliding adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
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