At least three people died when an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude struck the Xinjiang region in northwestern China on Friday. The epicenter of the earthquake, which hit just after 9 a.m. local time (9 p.m. EDT Thursday), was the Pishan County in the Hotan region, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Over 20 people were also injured, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a local newspaper. The China Earthquake Administration reportedly issued a level-two emergency response and deployed personnel to conduct relief and aid work.

Following the earthquake, a series of aftershocks -- the strongest one measuring 4.8 in magnitude -- also hit the region, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"The buildings are all shaking, and there are people everywhere outside," a user wrote on Weibo, according to Reuters. While the state-run news agency Xinhua reported the magnitude as 6.5, the United States Geological Survey pegged it at 6.4.

"Buildings were trembling and people rushed to the streets," Jin Xingchang, an express courier in Hotan city, more than 9 miles from Pishan, AP reported.

China, which borders the seismically active region of the Himalayas in the south, is frequently hit by earthquakes. 

Last October, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in China's southwestern Yunnan province displaced over 100,000 people and injured hundreds, AFP reported. Prior to that, in August, a tremor of 6.1 magnitude hit Yunnan and killed over 600 people. In May 2008, an earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude hit Sichuan, killing over 80,000 people -- making it the worst quake the region has ever witnessed.