The epicenter of the quake, which struck early Monday morning, was located about 24 miles east of Jiashi city, near the Xinjiang border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Chinese officials registered the temblor's magnitude at 6.8, while the U.S. Geological Survey reported a 6.3 magnitude.
More than 1,000 homes and schools collapsed, which caused the majority of fatalities, and left piles of debris with victims possibly trapped underneath.
Within hours, military teams were dispatched to the area, where they joined emergency rescue workers combing through mounds of wreckage, overwhelmed by the scale of the damages.
Their efforts have been hindered, however, by continued seismic activity. Throughout the morning, aftershocks rattled the province, sending residents streaming into the streets. Despite freezing temperatures, many chose to remain outdoors, fearing their homes might collapse.
In response, the Red Cross Society of China immediately dispatched a relief team to the quake zone, armed with relief items including clothing and quilts for those left homeless. After releasing $30,000 of its funds for relief operations, the Society also issued a country-wide appeal for assistance.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is on stand-by to offer financial and technical assistance if requested.
Since the quake occurred, responding crews have battled downed communications lines and the remote area of the disaster zone in their efforts to determine the extent of damages.
Xinjiang is the largest province in China, but also one of the poorest. While the region is prone to seismic activity, few buildings are constructed to withstand strong earthquakes.
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