Quake Strikes Northeast India; Toll Reaches Four Dead, Nearly 100 Injured

By Biswajyoti Das 4 January 2016

GUWAHATI, India — A powerful earthquake struck northeastern India before dawn on Monday, killing at least four people and injuring nearly 100, though the toll was expected to rise, with rescue efforts hampered by severed power supplies and telecommunication links.

The US Geological Survey said the quake of magnitude 6.8 was 57 km (35 miles) deep and struck 29 km (18 miles) west of Imphal, the capital of the Indian state of Manipur bordering Burma.

The quake struck while many residents were asleep, and roofs and staircases of some buildings collapsed in the city of about 270,000 people.

“It was the biggest earthquake we’ve felt in Imphal,” disaster response worker Kanarjit Kangujam told Reuters by telephone.

Police and hospitals in Imphal said the casualty toll had reached four dead and nearly 100 injured.

Disaster rescue workers battled to find workers believed to have been buried beneath the rubble of a building that had been under construction. They were unsure how many might be trapped.

Residents of Imphal said people fled their homes and power and telecoms links were down in the remote region.

Some lashed out at what they called the authorities’ slow response, saying that although the army had begun to clear some debris, it appeared to be short on heavy equipment.

“We haven’t seen any help from the government side until now,” said Kangujam, the disaster response volunteer in Manipur. “The government has not given us any information.”

Government officials leading the rescue effort could not immediately be reached for comment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was in touch with authorities in the northeast. Rescue teams from Guwahati, in neighboring Assam, were scrambling to reach Imphal.

People in Bangladesh and the Himalayan nation of Nepal ran from their homes, and the quake was also felt as far away as the Burmese city of Rangoon, about 1,176 km (730 miles) to the south, residents said.

An official at Burma’s meteorological department in Naypyidaw, the capital, said there were no reports of damage or casualties on the Burmese side of the border.