A series of earthquakes shook Tajikistan on the morning of February 23, with the strongest measured at magnitude 6.8, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). However, local reports said the epicentre was in a sparsely populated area. There was hope that any casualty count would be low.
Though, the earthquakes, which occurred around 0540 (local time) in the eastern Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), were felt in the capital Dushanbe, the biggest tremors were close to the country’s border with China’s far western Xinjiang region. Reuters noted the area is home to Sarez lake, formed as a result of an earthquake in 1911, meaning vast areas in several countries could potentially be exposed to flooding.
However, USGS noted "little or no" population would be exposed to landslides triggered by the moving ground. The main quake was 67 kilometres (41 miles) west of Murghob, Tajikistan, and 20 kilometres (12 miles) below ground, the USGS added. Murghob is a district capital with a population of a few thousand people high in the Pamir Mountains.
The quake was strongly felt across the border in China in some parts of Kashgar prefecture and Kizilsu Kyrgyz autonomous prefecture in Xinjiang, but no casualties or damage were reported so far, Chinese state media outlet CCTV said, citing local information officers.
Tajikistan has lately endured a series of avalanches that have taken the lives of 20 people. Such avalanches are an annual occurrence. As well as China, the country borders Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The death toll of the powerful twin earthquakes that on February 6 devastated parts of southeastern and southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 22 passed the 50,000 mark.
The first of those earthquakes measured 7.8 in magnitude, and the second 7.5. Since then Turkey and Syria have been hit by thousands of aftershocks, as well as earthquakes of magnitudes 6.4 and 5.8, respectively, on February 20. The number of casualties caused by the first of those smaller quakes stood at eight by the end of February 22. The first quake was described by experts as strong, the second as moderate.
For earthquakes, it should be noted that the Richter magnitude scale does not proportionally represent the strength of the earthquake in question. For instance, 7.00 magnitude is not one unit or 16% stronger than 6.00 magnitude, it is 10 times or 1,000% stronger. At 6.8, the Tajikistan earthquake falls in the “strong” 6.0-6.9 category of quakes as listed by the Richter scale. “Major” quakes have magnitudes of 7.0-7.9.