Ancient Buddhist temples damaged as 6.8 earthquake rattles Myanmar | News | DW | 24.08.2016
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Ancient Buddhist temples damaged as 6.8 earthquake rattles Myanmar

The depth of the earthquake - more than 80 km - was very deep, which helped minimize damage. Still, buildings as far away as Calcutta, India and Bangkok, Thailand reportedly swayed in response.

A powerful earthquake rocked central Myanmar Wednesday killing at least three people and damaging more than 150 ancient Buddhist pagodas.

The 6.8 magnitude quake struck at a depth of 84 km (52 miles), with its epicenter near the town of Chauk, south of the ancient capital of Bagan, and 580 km north of the present day capital Yangon. The depth of the temblor, which struck around 5 p.m. (1030 GMT/UTC), helped minimize damage.

"We felt quite heavy shaking for about 10 seconds and started to evacuate the building when there was another strong tremor," said Vincent Panzani of the Save the Children charity located in the village of Pakkoku, some 25 km from Bagan.

Red Cross officials said they were aware of three deaths, including two children who were killed in the small town of Yenanchaung, south of Chauk.

"Two young girls died when a pagoda collapsed on a river bank," said Moe Thidar Win, deputy director of the disaster management team at the Myanmar Red Cross Society. "One man died in a Pakokku tobacco factory when the roof collapsed on him."

Damage to the Buddhist temples - which are a major tourist attraction, and rival those in Cambodia's Angkor Wat - appeared to be significant.

A damaged pagoda after an earthquake in Bagan, Myanmar.

A damaged pagoda in Bagan

A major tourist attraction

Bagan is home to Myanmar's most famous archaeological site and a major tourist destination 30 kilometers north of the quake's epicenter.

It features more than 2,500 Buddhist monuments, of which at least 171 were damaged by the rattling earth, according to a Facebook posting by the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs.

"Some were seriously damaged," said Aung Kyaw, the local director of Bagan's culture department.

Some photos showed clouds of dust billowing up from around some of the larger temples, with bricks crumbling down their tiered facades. Many of the pagodas were built between the 11th and 13th century.

Otherwise, damage appeared to be relatively light, although many people were spooked by the rumbling earth.

"My house shook during the quake. Many people were scared and they ran out of the buildings," said Maung Maung Kyaw, a local official of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Chauk. "Some of the old buildings have cracks. The biggest damage is to the bank building in the town."

Despite the depth of the quake and the relatively modest damage locally, reports say that buildings swayed in both the Thai capital, Bangkok - 1,000km to the southeast, and in Calcutta, India 700 km to the west.

bik/kl (Reuters, AFP)