China’s earthquake magnitude of 7.9 has killed more than 550 people in eastern China’s Xinjiang region, state media reported Sunday, with dozens of others injured and the death toll expected to rise.
Authorities in the region, which includes Xinjiang and neighboring Tajikistan, blamed the quake on the Uyghur separatist movement, saying it was triggered by a dam collapse.
The Uyghanistan-based Uygyur separatist group has claimed responsibility for at least 20 major earthquakes in recent years.
It said in a statement Sunday that the disaster could trigger a “new era of terrorism.”
“The U.S. is not satisfied with the current situation in Xinjiang.
We hope the U.N. Security Council will take serious action,” it said in the statement.
The death toll from Sunday’s quake has been reported as high as 600, according to state media.
The earthquake struck at a time of high tension in Xinjing, the country’s largest city, where residents have been in lockdown and there have been protests against the government.
The capital, Urumqi, was heavily damaged by a series of devastating earthquakes in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1989, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake devastated Urumjiang, leaving more than a million people homeless.
More than 70 people died in the quake, including many in Urumpei, a city of about 100,000 people.
The quake occurred about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of Urumpeijing.