Powerful quake hits NE Myanmar
Posted: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:02 pm
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A powerful earthquake that toppled homes in northeastern Myanmar has killed more than 70 people, and there were fears today the toll would mount as conditions in more remote areas became known.
The Thursday night quake, measured at magnitude 6.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey, was centered just north of Tachileik town in Shan State near the Thai border. It was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in the Thai capital, Bangkok, and Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
Myanmar state radio announced today that 74 people had been killed and 111 injured in the quake, but was updating the total frequently. It said 390 houses, 14 Buddhist monasteries and nine government buildings were damaged.
An official from the U.N.’s World Food Program said there were many casualties and serious damage in Mong Lin village, five miles (eight kilometers) from Tachileik. State radio said 29 were killed there and 16 injured.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that 15 houses collapsed in the town of Tarlay, where state radio said 11 were killed and 29 injured. Another U.N. official said a small hospital there was damaged as well as a bridge, making it difficult to access the town.
The private relief agency World Vision said water tanks and wells were also damaged, hindering water supplies.
The newspaper said two other people were killed in Tachileik, including a 4-year-old boy. It said six people were injured in the town, which is just across the border from Mae Sai in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province.
In Mae Sai, one woman was killed when a wall fell on her, according to Thai police, but damage was otherwise minimal.
The second U.N. official said medicine would be sent to the affected areas as soon as possible along with an assessment team in cooperation with the Myanmar Red Cross Society.
Both U.N. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Myanmar’s government frowns on giving unauthorized information to the media.
Other relief efforts also were gearing up. World Vision said that at the request of the government, it would provide 250 households with basic necessities, such as food and water.
Most of rural Myanmar, one of Asia’s poorest countries, is underdeveloped, with poor communications and other infrastructure, and minimal rescue and relief capacity. The country’s military government is also usually reluctant to release information about disasters because it is already sensitive to any criticism.
The government tightly controls information, and in 2008 delayed reporting on — and asking for help with — devastating Cyclone Nargis, which killed 130,000 people. The junta was widely criticized for what were called inadequate preparations and a slow response to the disaster.
Somchai Hatayatanti, the governor of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, said dozens of people suffered minor injuries on the Thai side of the border. Cracks were found in buildings in downtown Chiang Rai city, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) from the epicenter, including a provincial hospital and city hall. The tops of spires fell from at least two Buddhist temples.
As a precaution for aftershocks, a relief center was being set up today in Mae Sai.
“We are worried that the area might be hit with stronger quakes. There was another quake at 7 a.m. this morning,” said Somsri Meethong of the Mae Sai District office, referring to a 4.9 aftershock. “I had to run again like last night. What we have seen on TV about Japan added to our fear.”
Published in The Messenger 3.25.11