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Web Extra Monday, November 28, 2005

Earthquakes hit China and Iran

Two earthquakes killed dozens of people over the weekend, in southern China and a continent away in southern Iran.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, an earthquake struck the Hubei-Jiangxi border region of China, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the city of Jiujiang. China's seismological survey reported the event as magnitude 5.7, according to the state media outlet, much larger than U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measurements of magnitude 5.0. The rupture occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers. Had the event been even deeper, the seismic waves would have dissipated more, causing less damage. More than 8,000 people were injured and over a dozen died, China Daily reported, and more than 150,000 houses were destroyed; most of the city's half-million residents evacuated.

China, which had been dealing with the fallout of a massive benzene spill on its northern Songhua River, turned its attention south to relief efforts in Jiangxi Province (see The New York Times), including delivering tents to house people too afraid to go back inside. The southern China region had not felt such a large temblor in almost 100 years, according to Xinhua News.

The next day, on Sunday, Nov. 27, a magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck the southern Iranian city of Bandar-e Abbas, followed by a magnitude-5.5 aftershock several hours later. Almost a dozen people died. Also at a depth of 10 kilometers, the events had their epicenter 60 kilometers (35 miles) southwest of the city, perched on the eastern edge of the Persian Gulf, according to USGS. Thrust faults riddle the region, as Africa pushes more quickly north than the Arabian Peninsula.

People in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) felt the major temblor, leading to the evacuation of several skyscrapers in Dubai, CTV of Canada reported. The quake destroyed several villages in southern Iran.

Naomi Lubick

USGS report on China's earthquake
USGS report for Nov. 27 earthquakes in Iran magnitude-6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes
USGS list of Iran's historical earthquakes, including Bam, December 2004 (see "Unnecessary devastation in Iran," Geotimes, Web Extra, Dec. 30, 2003)
CTV (Canada)
Xinhua News Agency
The New York Times

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