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6.8-magnitude quake strikes NE Myanmar; 1 dead

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The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 1:46 PM

YANGON, Myanmar -- A powerful earthquake struck northeastern Myanmar on Thursday night, killing one woman and shaking buildings as far away as Bangkok. No tsunami was generated.

Homes and at least one bridge were damaged in several villages along Myanmar's borders with Thailand and Laos, according to residents who spoke to an aid agency.

There were also reports of minor damage in northern Thailand, where a woman died when a brick wall collapsed on her, police Capt. Weerapon Samranjai said. Cracks spread in the foundations of some buildings in the province surrounding the city of Chiang Rai, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) from the epicenter. The spires fell off two pagodas.

"The tremor was so strong, and things fell down from the shelves. It was very scary, and we all ran out to the streets," said a 25-year old woman who runs a mini-mart in Tachileik, a Myanmar town near the border. As is common in the country, she spoke on condition of anonymity because authorities discourage talking to the media.

It was difficult to get a comprehensive picture of damage in the country's remote northeast, where communications, even at the best of time, are sketchy. The military-run government also tightly controls information.

The hilly region could see landslides of rock and mud shaken loose in the quake, said Jenny MacIntyre, a communications manager with World Vision, who spoke with representatives from the aid agency who were near the epicenter in Myanmar.

The 6.8-magnitude quake was just six miles (10 kilometers) deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At that strength and depth, it said 600,000 people could feel shaking anywhere from strong to violent. It added that since buildings in the area are considered vulnerable, damage could be widespread.

Buildings swayed hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, including in the Thai capital, Hanoi, Vietnam, and the Myanmar city of Mandalay.

"People living in high-rise buildings felt the tremor, and we are still on the streets. We are afraid to go back into the house," said a 34-year-old woman from Mandalay, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Max Jones, an Australian resident of Bangkok, was in his 27th-floor apartment when his building started shaking so hard he had to grab the walls to keep from falling.

"It was bloody scary, I can tell you," he said. Jones said he could see people running in the streets.

The quake was followed by two smaller aftershocks, 4.8 and 5.4 in magnitude.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was located too far inland to create a destructive wave.


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