Quake kills 63 in Burma, aftershock rattles Thailand

At least 63 people were killed in a strong earthquake that struck Burma, state media said on Friday, while a series of aftershocks have caused panic but only limited damage from Thailand to Laos.

The death toll from Thursday’s 6,8 magnitude tremor was expected to rise slightly in Burma after more than 100 buildings were destroyed. Over 100 people were injured, according to state television.

The quake sparked panic, but no major damage, in other countries across South-East Asia. This month’s devastating Japan quake and tsunami have revived memories of the even more powerful 2004 Indonesia quake and tsunami which killed around 226 000 people.

An aftershock, an estimated magnitude of 5,5, rattled Thailand on Friday but caused limited damage, although residents living close to the epicentre were advised to leave their homes.

The initial quake shook the “Golden Triangle” region, where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet.
It was felt in the capital cities of Thailand and Burma and as far away as Vietnam, where people in tall buildings were evacuated.

It was 10km below the surface but caused only slight damage on the Thai side

The town of Tachilek in Myanmar was badly hit by Thursday’s quake. People fled their homes and cracks were seen in the roads.

“We were extremely frightened to enter the house since there were several strong aftershocks,” a teacher said by telephone. “Some people are haunted by what they saw on TV about the recent earthquake in Japan.”

The Red Cross said a hospital in Tachilek had been damaged and trained local volunteers had been mobilised to provide relief and first aid.

Fears of aftershocks
Thursday’s quake was centred 111km north of Chiang Rai, Thailand’s northernmost province and a sparsely populated, hilly area. It forms part of the Golden Triangle, a popular tourist destination and famous for the cultivation of illicit opium.

In Chiang Rai’s main town, little damage was seen. The spires of several Buddhist pagodas were bent, some tiles were smashed and a few cracks were seen on the ground close to a hotel.

Fearing more aftershocks, people in the province’s Mae Sai district, 60km from the epicentre, had left their houses and were seen setting up makeshift shelters in open spaces.

Somchai Hatyatanti, Chiang Rai provincial governor, said cracks were seen in some buildings. Power was briefly knocked out and some telephone lines were down.

Bountheun Menevilay, head of the disaster preparedness division of the Red Cross in neighbouring Laos, said the quake was felt strongly in the thinly populated border provinces of Luang Namtha and Bokeo, but no deaths or injuries were reported.

Vibul Sguanpong, director general of Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, said there had been dozens of aftershocks.

“We urge those in very old houses or tall, old buildings near the northern border with Myanmar to check for cracks and other signs of damage, and consider leaving for the next two days while aftershocks are likely,” he said. - Reuters

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