RANGOON — A strong earthquake struck northern Burma on Sunday, with local media reporting that five people were killed. Scattered damage and injuries also were reported in areas close to the quake’s epicenter.
According to news reports, the most significant damage appeared to be the collapsing of a bridge under construction across the Irrawaddy River in the town of Shwebo, the location of the quake’s epicenter. The website of Weekly Eleven magazine said five people were killed when the bridge, which was 80 percent built, collapsed.
“This is the worst earthquake I felt in my entire life,” said Soe Soe, a 52-year-old Shwebo resident.
According to Soe Soe, the huge concrete gate of a monastery collapsed and several sculptures from another pagoda were damaged in the town.
Other damage was reported in Mogok, a major gem-mining area just east of the quake’s epicenter. Temples were damaged there, as were some abandoned ruby mines hit by landslides, Sein Win, a resident, said by phone.
A resident in the capital, Naypyidaw, said several window panes of the parliament building had broken.
An official from the Meteorological Department in Naypyidaw said the magnitude-6.8 quake struck at 7:42 a.m. local time. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to the media.
The US Geological Survey reported the quake’s magnitude as 6.6 with a depth of just 10 kilometers (6 miles).
There were no reports of casualties or major damage in Burma’s second-largest city, Mandalay, which is about 117 kilometers (72 miles) south of the epicenter and the region’s only major population center.
Mandalay residents contacted by phone said the quake was strong enough to send people dashing out of their homes for safety, as water splashed out of jars and tanks. They said they saw no major structural damage in their immediate neighborhoods, but added that it did cause cracks in some walls.
The epicenter of the quake is in a region frequently hit by small temblors that usually cause little damage.
The quake was felt in Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand. It comes just a week ahead of a scheduled visit to Burma by President Barack Obama. He will be the first US president to visit the one-time pariah nation, which is emerging from decades of military rule.