Earthquake Rattles Southeast Asia

Tremors unnerve residents of Burma and Thailand just two weeks after a devastating quake hits Japan.
2011-03-24
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A map showing the epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude quake in red and two smaller aftershocks.
A map showing the epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude quake in red and two smaller aftershocks.
Map appears courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

A powerful earthquake shook Burma near its border with Thailand Thursday, leaving at least two people dead and sending shock waves across Southeast Asia, residents and officials said.

Tremors were detected as far away as the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) away from the epicenter, and in parts of China.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially recorded the shock as a magnitude 7.0 quake, but later downgraded it to 6.8. One aftershock later measured 5.4 magnitude.

The quake epicenter was located inside Burma nearly 60 miles (90 kilometers) north of Thailand’s Chiang Rai city and 150 miles (235 kilometers) northeast of Chiang Mai, the country’s second city. The quake occurred only six miles (10 kilometers) below the surface of the earth.

A report by Thailand’s ASTV quoted one man in Chiang Rai province’s Chiang Khong district as saying that the quake was “strong enough to make people dizzy.”

Tall buildings in Bangkok reportedly swayed during the quake.

AFP quoted an unnamed official in Burma as saying that a child had died in a town close to the country’s border with Thailand.

“We received a report that the child was killed in Tachileik town when a building collapsed because of the quake,” the official said.

The other reported death occurred in Thailand’s Mae Sai district, across the border from the incident in Burma.

Police in the district said a 52-year-old woman was killed when a wall of her home collapsed due to poor construction.

Spread of tremors

A female telephone operator in Hanoi said that by the time the tremors reached Vietnam, the severity of the earthquake had been drastically reduced.

“We only felt a mild aftershock from the quake which originated on the Lao and Thai border. It occurred around 9 p.m. but it’s over now,” she said.

“People in tall buildings felt a small shake, but there were no casualties or injuries.”

The operator said that the quake could be felt in the capital and in the surrounding provinces, but added that “by the time it reached Vietnam, it had reduced to something between 3.0 and 4.0 magnitude.”

In China, villagers in southern Yunnan province said buildings within 40 kilometers of Burma shook during the quake, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Hundreds of students and teachers were evacuated from a school in Yunnan’s Menghai county when the building developed cracks, but no injuries were reported.

AFP quoted officials in the Burmese capital of Naypyidaw as saying that they had clearly felt the shake and a resident of Mandalay in central Burma who said the tremors lasted for nearly five seconds.

The earthquake comes just two weeks after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tidal wave that destroyed parts of northern Japan and left nearly 26,000 people dead or missing.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese and Lao services. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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