Strong quake hits Myanmar, but no deaths

A strong earthquake that struck Myanmar damaged at least nine Buddhist pagodas and was felt in parts of eastern India and Bangladesh, but an official says there are no reports of serious damage or injuries.

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The magnitude 6.9 quake struck the Southeast Asian country on Wednesday evening at a depth of 135 kilometres, 396km north of Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, according to the US Geological Survey.

Residents in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon panicked after the quake struck, causing residents to rush out of their homes.

An Associated Press journalist who was in a Yangon hospital at the time of the quake said the six-storey Shwegonedine Specialist Centre shook strongly and many people, including patients, staff and visitors, ran outside.

The quake was centred in the jungle and hills 220km northwest of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city. While the area is prone to earthquakes, it is generally sparsely populated, and most houses are low-rise structures.

In the Sagaing region just southwest of Mandalay, Sa Willy Frient, the director of the Relief and Resettlement Department, said there were no reports of serious injuries.

“There are still no death reports,” he said, adding that nine pagodas had been damaged.

“None of the pagodas collapsed, but there are cracks in some parts,” he said.

Government offices were closed on Thursday because of a three-day national holiday to mark Myanmar’s traditional new year, and there was no official announcement about the quake’s impact.

Zaw Myint Htoo, a 38-year-old resident of Mogok, 200km north of Mandalay, confirmed there was no major damage in that city either.

The tremors were felt in the eastern Indian states of West Bengal and Assam, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were visiting during their tour of India.

Prince William and his wife Kate were staying in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park on Wednesday night and were safe, according to the British High Commission in New Delhi.

“We felt the tremor very strongly, but all is fine,” said British deputy high commissioner Scott Furssedonn-Wood, who was accompanying the royal couple.

William and Kate left for neighbouring Bhutan on Thursday and were to return to India on Friday to visit the Taj Mahal.

People also reported feeling the quake in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, 484km from the epicentre.