Rescue workers in northern Burma searched for victims amid the rubble of hundreds of collapsed homes and buildings on Monday following a deadly earthquake that aid groups say killed at least 13 people and injured dozens.
Sunday morning’s magnitude 6.8 quake was followed by two aftershocks, hampering relief and rehabilitation efforts as the government and opposition and civil society groups mobilized aid to the region.
The initial quake struck some 120 kilometers (70 miles) north of Burma’s second-biggest city of Mandalay at 7:42 a.m. near Shwebo township, ravaging small towns in Sagaing and Mandalay divisions.
Aid agency Save the Children counted at least 13 dead, with one dead and 10 injured in Mandalay.
Among the worst hit was Shwebo’s neighboring Sinku township, where six people reportedly died amid falling buildings.
“Most of the big buildings in my village collapsed,” Aung Myint Win, an official in Sinku’s Bone Thak Kone village, told RFA’s Burmese service.
“The earthquake destroyed a monastery, buildings, and a school,” he said. “I ask the government and all aid agencies to help build a new school so that children can attend school again.”
In some of the worst damage caused by the jolt, the steel structure of a partially built bridge linking Sinku with Shwebo and Kyauk Myaung across the Irrawaddy River also collapsed, killing at least one worker in a ship underneath the structure, according to official media.
A TV broadcast on Sunday from President Thein Sein promised relief from the government.
The previous ruling military junta was widely criticized for its slow response to devastating Cyclone Nargis that killed 140,000 people in 2008.
"The government will strive to do its best in its relief and resettlement efforts in the area," the announcement said.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, headed by parliamentary opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, also mobilized relief efforts, collecting donations for aid to be sent to the affected areas.
'Helping each other'
But even without organized relief efforts, some devastated communities were helping each other among the devastation, said Aung Naing, an NLD representative in the gold-mining town of Thabeikyin, another of the hardest-hit areas.
“I saw people from all walks of life helping each other, providing rice bags and water. There was no official organization making this to happen. They were just helping each other,” he told RFA.
“As for NLD in our area, we are still collecting donations and we may be able to help them tomorrow,” he said on Monday.
“People were so scared because some aftershocks occurred after a major quake. In total 36 people were wounded [in Thabeikyin] and 10 have been sent to the Mandalay hospital,” he said.
“One schoolgirl died after the wall fell down on her,” he said.
Burmese Vice President Sai Mauk Kham paid a visit on Monday to Thabeikyin, where some 102 houses, 48 government buildings, 21 religious buildings, and four schools were damaged in the quake and aftershocks, according to official media.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is headed for a historic visit to India this week, donated U.S. $10,000 to quake relief efforts, instructing the funds be pooled with other donations and distributed through the NLD’s Sagaing and Mandalay branches.
The opposition leader arrives Tuesday in New Delhi, where she will meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top politicians, as well as Burmese activists.
The last major earthquake to hit Burma was a 6.8-magnitude temblor that struck near Burma’s borders with China, Thailand and Laos, killing at least 75 people and injuring over 100, according to official tallies.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Win Naing. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.