Myanmar earthquake near Thailand border kills at least 70 (UPDATES)



A Myanmar newspapers vendor waits for customers in downtown Yangon on March 19, 2011, which felt tremors from a6.8-magnitude earthquake Thursday.


Soe Than Win

A shallow 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Thursday at 8:25 P.M. local time, killing at least 70 people and destroying dozens of buildings.

This earthquake follows the 9.0 earthquake in Japan that caused a tsunami and has left over 9000 dead.

Tremors from the Myanmar quake were felt as far away as Bangkok, Thailand, and the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, leading to the evacuation of several tall buildings and offices, Reuters reported. The quake struck near Myanmar's border with Thailand.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the earthquake was too far inland to raise the threat of a tsunami. The quake caused widespread panic.

An official in Tarlay, near the epicenter of the quake and where 24 deaths were confirmed, warned that "many more casaulties" were possible, AFP reports. The quake caused five monasteries and 35 buildings in the town to collapse.

Another woman died in Thailand's Mae Sai district when a wall collapsed on her while she slept.

The Geological Survey said the quake was 6 miles deep, putting it very close to the surface. Shallow quakes can be very destructive, as evidenced by the 6.3-magnitude quake that hit in New Zealand last month, killing more than 100 people.

"In my 40 years, I never felt an earthquake this strong. A glass broke and I had to hold on to a pillar," Thanawan Sisukniyom, a retired teacher in Mai Sai, told Reuters by telephone.

Witnesses in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-largest city, reported no immediate damage but said the quake was strong.

A witness in the Myanmar town of Tachilek, which borders Chiang Rai, said parked motorcycles fell to the ground and cracks were seen in the road. "I felt I was swaying like a child in a cradle," said Nutpisut Thongkika, 50, a teacher, in a telephone interview from Chiang Rai. "The situation here was very chaotic when the earthquake hit."

It was reported that residents near the epicenter in tall buildings were immediately evacuated to a safe place until tremors subsided.

People also left their homes in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw and its biggest city, Yangon, 340 miles away.

Earthquakes of magnitudes of around 5 and as high as 7 have hit northern Myanmar and Thailand several times in the past 15 years, but damage and casualties have been limited and the areas are thinly populated, according to Reuters.