Strong earthquake hits Tibet near the China-India border

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.3 has struck Tibet, not far from the border between southwest China and northeast India, seismologists and residents say. Only few details were immediately available.

The earthquake, which struck at 4:34 a.m. local time on Saturday, was centered about 43 kilometers (27 miles) northeast of Nyingchi, a city in the southeast of Tibet, or about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia in India’s Assam region.

China’s Earthquake Network Center (CENC) put the preliminary magnitude at 6.9, significantly higher than the 6.3 reported by the U.S. Geological Survey. Both CENC and the USGS said it struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) below the surface, making it a very shallow earthquake.

Residents in both Tibet and parts of northeastern India reported feeling the earthquake, but there was no immediate word on damage or casualties. “I was sleeping on the bed and suddenly felt heavy shocks for a few seconds,” a resident in Jorhat, about 362 kilometers (225 miles) from the epicenter, told EMSC.

Computer models from the USGS, using the lower magnitude, estimated that as many as 39.1 million people across the region may have felt the earthquake. “Some damage is possible and the impact should be relatively localized,” the USGS said in its assessment.

Buildings in parts of China are extremely vulnerable to earthquake shaking, and even light earthquakes have caused serious damage and casualties in the past.

At least 617 people were killed in August 2014 when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Yunnan province. It was the country’s deadliest earthquake since April 2010, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck northwest China, killing 2,698 people. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan in 2008 killed nearly 88,000 people.

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