Mainland China has experienced two moderate earthquakes Tuesday morning, one of which appears to have caused significant damage.
A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang, while a 5.4 magnitude quake struck the southwestern region of the country between the Sichuan and Gansu provinces.
The earthquakes struck early Tuesday morning and the official Xinhua news agency reported that The China Earthquake Administration believed that the Xinjiang quake was felt in neighboring countries and is projected to have caused “major damage.”
The Sichuan province quake was not considered very serious and is reported to be causality free.
According to The China Daily, the earthquake in the Xinjiang province caused 824 houses to collapse, although no causalities have been reported yet.
The newspaper reported that local officials said that the damage caused by the quake has reached more than $10.5 million.
Teams have been dispatched for rescue and recovery work in the devastated province that is highly populated by ethnic Uyghur people.
Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group in the country that has ties to Central Asia.
The Xinjiang region has a population of around 20 million, nine of which are Uyghurs. Some Uyghur separatist groups have called for independence and refer to China’s presence in the region as imperialism.
The earthquake in the region comes only months after Xinjiang faced deadly attacks by ethnic Uyghurs.
The deadly events brought up an important discussion in China about ethnic and religious diversity and minority populations. Although China has a predominately Han Chinese population, minority groups in China often express feelings of oppression and social marginalization.
With the Chinese government rapidly deploying emergency services and groups following today’s devastating quake, perhaps some of the tensions between the ethnic groups may be tamed for the time-being if all groups that faced earthquake-related damaged are treated equally.