Earthquake in far western China kills 8, injures more than 20

A moderate earthquake that struck close to the Earth's surface killed eight people and injured more than 20 others in far western China on Thursday, the region's earthquake administration says.

More than 180 houses collapse, search and rescue work underway

Chinese soldiers help people clear rubbles from a damaged house following an earthquake in Kuzigun Village in Taxkorgan County in northwest China. (Li Jing/Xinhua/Associated Press)

A moderate earthquake that struck close to the Earth's surface killed eight people and injured more than 20 others in far western China on Thursday, the region's earthquake administration said.

The morning quake struck in Taxkorgan county, a remote mountainous area that borders Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in China's Xinjiang region. The Xinjiang Earthquake Administration said more than 180 houses had collapsed in the lightly populated area.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 5.4 magnitude quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres at 5:58 a.m. local time Thursday. Shallow quakes cause greater shaking at the surface, which can cause more damage.

The county has a population of around 33,000, and is notable for being a stop on the Karakoram Highway, built along the ancient Silk Road connecting China's far western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Frequent aftershocks

The official Xinhua News Agency said there had been frequent aftershocks and search and rescue work was underway.

Earthquakes are common in China's west, although the low population density there often means casualties are low. However, in 2003, a 6.8 magnitude quake in a nearby county to Thursday's quake killed 268 people.

China's deadliest earthquake this century, a 7.9 magnitude temblor with a depth of 19 kilometres, struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

China's remote Xinjiang region is close to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Google Maps)