Yangon – More than 50 people were killed and dozens of buildings destroyed when a strong earthquake struck Myanmar near the Thai border, officials from both countries said on Friday.
Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800km from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake on Thursday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8.
A Myanmar official said dozens of people were killed in two towns close to the epicentre.
“The death toll of the quake has increased to more than 50 in Tarlay and Mine Lin townships,” said the official, who declined to be named.
“Roads are also closed. According to the information that we have, more than 130 buildings collapsed because of the quake. There might be more casualties and damage.”
Across the border, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall in her house collapsed.
Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.
‘Catastrophic infrastructure damage’
In Yangon Chris Herink, Myanmar country director for the charity World Vision, said there did not appear to be “catastrophic infrastructure damage” in the affected areas of Kengtung and Tachileik, although buildings were cracked and water supplies disrupted in some areas.
“Of real concern though are the more rural areas. There will be more, I am afraid to say, unhappy information coming throughout the day,” he said.
“It is a hilly area near the border between Thailand and Laos, the so-called Golden Triangle. There is a lot of commerce that goes on in the area.”
World Vision has around 7 000 children sponsored by overseas donors in the affected areas.
“We want to ensure that they and their families are safe, secure and accounted for and to offer assistance to them as a first priority but also to help anyone in the area that has humanitarian needs,” he said.
The quake struck 90km north of Chiang Rai and 235km north-northeast of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second city and a popular tourist destination.
Thailand’s meteorological department on Friday said it had registered six large aftershocks following the initial quake.
Residents in Chiang Rai city raced from their homes again on Friday morning as a large tremor again shook the ground.
The quake comes two weeks after Japan was hit by a monster earthquake, which unleashed a devastating tsunami that left around 27 000 people dead or missing and triggered a crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant.
Myanmar and Japan sit on different tectonic plates, separated by the vast Eurasian plate.
No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as US seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.
The USGS initially recorded the quake as magnitude 7.0, but later revised it down to 6.8.
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