A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted China's far-western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region early Tuesday, leaving at least three people dead with several others injured and forcing about 12,000 people to evacuate, according to Chinese state-run media reports.

The epicenter of the 2:09 a.m. quake was a depth of some 22 kilometers in Wushi County in Aksu Prefecture, within a mountainous border area between China and Kyrgyzstan, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the China Earthquake Networks Center.

Residents have been warned to stay away from damaged houses as the main quake was followed by 70 aftershocks at magnitudes of 3.0 or higher, of which the strongest one measured M5.3.

Rescue workers have reportedly been mobilized to the disaster-hit area, which is located some 3,000 meters above sea level.

Many people rushed to open space for safety despite temperatures falling to around minus 10 C in the wee hours, Xinhua said. It said a child was in a stable condition in a local hospital after being rescued by police from a collapsed building.

The quake was also felt in various cities across Xinjiang, including the regional capital Urumqi as well as Hotan and Kashgar.

Cao Yanglong, who was staying on the 21st floor of a hotel in Aksu, said the intensity was so strong that he felt like he was "going to be shaken out of bed," according to the news agency.

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