At least 74 people are killed, and more than 100 injured after a strong earthquake struck Myanmar late on Thursday, while a series of aftershocks have caused panic but limited damage from Thailand to Laos.
Residents walk along a road damaged by an earthquake in Myanmar
At least 74 people have been killed, and more than 100 injured in a strong earthquake that has struck Myanmar. According to state media reports, a series of aftershocks have caused panic but only limited damage in neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Laos. The quake shook the famous "Golden Triangle" region, where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet. Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi in Vietnam and parts of China, where people in tall buildings were evacuated.
Officials stand in front of a building destroyed by an earthquake that hit Myanmar on Thursday, March 24
The town of Tachilek in Myanmar was badly hit by Thursday's 6.8 magnitude tremor. People fled their homes and cracks were seen in the roads. "We were extremely frightened about the prospect of entering the house since there were several strong aftershocks," a teacher said by telephone to Reuters. "Some people are haunted by what they saw on TV about the recent earthquake in Japan."
A Myanmar official says they are trying to reach the remote areas, "the military, police and local authorities are trying to find some people injured in those affected areas but the roads are still closed." The Red Cross says a hospital in Tachilek has been damaged and trained local volunteers have been mobilized to provide relief and first aid. The death toll is also expected to rise in Myanmar after more than 100 buildings were reported to have been destroyed.
Fears of aftershocks
No major damage has been reported in other countries across Southeast Asia, but the quake, which shook tall buildings, hospitals and schools, sparked panic, causing terrified residents across the region flee their homes.
The head of the disaster preparedness division of the Red Cross in neighbouring Laos says the quake was felt strongly in the thinly populated border provinces of Luang Namtha and Bokeo, but no deaths or injuries have been reported so far.
The quake, measuring at a magnitude 6.8 toppled homes in northeastern Myanmar and killed at least 74 people
Some residents of the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, fled their homes when the quake shook the city. According to Nguyen Thai Son, of the national Global Geophysics Institute who spoke to AFP, "there was big panic among the local residents," as high buildings shook for half a minute in northwestern Dien Bien town, 350 kilometres from the epicentre.
The tremors were felt throughout China's southwestern province of Yunnan, according to state-run China National Radio, but no casualties or major structural damage was reported on Friday morning. However, the earthquake has caused cracks in some homes and schools in and around the rugged Xishuangbanna region that borders Myanmar, and fear of aftershocks forced many people in the area to spend the night outdoors.
Dozens of aftershocks in Thailand
An aftershock of 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.
Nurses evacuating patients from a building at Chiang Rai hospital, Thailand following strong aftershocks
In Chiang Rai, Thailand's sparsely populated northernmost hilly province, Somchai Hatyatanti, the provincial governor, says cracks were seen in some buildings. Power was briefly knocked out and some telephone lines were down. The spires of several Buddhist pagodas there were damaged, some tiles were smashed and a few cracks were seen on the ground close to a hotel.
Vibul Sguanpong, director general of Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, told Reuters that there have been dozens of aftershocks and has urged "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."
No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as US seismologists say it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.
Sherpem Sherpa (Reuters/AFP)
Editor: Grahame Lucas