At least 11 dead after powerful earthquake rocks Myanmar, surrounding countries

March 25th, 2011 - 2:29 am ICT by BNO News  

YANGON, BURMA (BNO NEWS) — A powerful earthquake struck the northeastern region of Myanmar (Burma) on Thursday evening, not far from its borders with Laos, China, and Thailand, seismologists and residents said. At least 11 people were killed.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake at 8.25 p.m. local time (1355 GMT) was centered in Shan state of Myanmar, about 89 kilometers (55 miles) north of Chiang Rai in Thailand and 168 kilometers (104 miles) south-southwest of Yunjinghong in China. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH).

A seismologist at the DMH said there were reports of buildings having cracked in Shan state and some areas were without power, but he had no information on casualties. “We are gathering that information right now,” he said.

The Xinhua news agency in China however reported that at least 10 people were killed as a result of landslides and a building collapse in Shan state. It gave no other details, but said a child was among the fatalities.

In Thailand, where shaking was felt as far away as the capital of Bangkok, local media reported that a 55-year-old man was killed in Chiang Rai when a wall fell over him. There were no other reports of casualties from Thailand, although there were unconfirmed reports of damage in the Chiang Rai area.

Residents also felt the earthquake in southern China where shaking lasted for more than a minute, prompting people to flee the buildings they were in. But there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from China, where the China Earthquake Network Center measured the strength of the earthquake at 7.2 on the Richter scale.

In Vietnam, meanwhile, the state-run Viet Nam News agency reported that buildings shook in the capital of Hanoi. It said there were no reports of damage or casualties, but noted that some residents had fled buildings in panic. Shaking was also felt in Laos.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the earthquake at 6.8 on the Richter scale, estimated that approximately 78,000 people likely perceived severe shaking that could result in heavy damage. It said more than 583,000 others likely felt strong to very strong shaking, while an estimated 14 million people felt light to moderate shaking.

“Significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread,” the USGS said in an assessment. “Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response.”

Thursday’s earthquake was the first significant earthquake to have hit Myanmar since September 21, 2003 when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck central Myanmar. The earthquake caused no fatalities, but three temples, a bridge and other structures were damaged in Taungdwingyi. It was also widely felt in Thailand, where minor damage was reported.

But the most devastating earthquake on record to have hit Myanmar happened on May 5, 1930 when a powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the country, triggering a tsunami that impacted local coastlines. The ancient seaport and town of Pegu was almost entirely destroyed, killing at least 550 people. It is believed that hundreds more died in other towns.

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