Quake Clean-up Operation Begins

By Lawi Weng 14 November 2012

Victims of Sunday’s earthquake that rocked Upper Burma have begun sorting through the devastation as a government official reveals the death toll has risen to 16 with five others still missing.

Soe Aung, the director of Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Department, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that seven people were killed in Sagaing Division while nine lost their lives in Mandalay Division. In addition, he said 123 people were injured across the two divisions.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross released higher figures on Wednesday that indicated at least 26 people were killed with 12 others missing and around 230 injured.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck at 7:42 am local time and caused major damage in Shwebo and Kyauk Myaung townships in Sagaing Divison and Thabeikkyin Township in Mandalay Division.

“The most affected area was in Thabeikkyin Township, in Mandalay Division,” said Soe Aung and “We found that it was a lot more damaged than other areas when we went there to investigate yesterday.

“The number of damaged houses remains unclear as some buildings appear fine on the surface but are actually badly damaged underground at their foundations. We will not let people stay if we find houses have suffered damaged foundations and we will instead help to build new ones.”

The Ministry of Social Welfare provided 50 shelters on football fields and other open ground at Sintku Township by the Irrawaddy River near the quake’s epicenter as well as 70 shelters at Thabeikkyin Township.

Zaw Moe Htet, another relief worker in Thabekkyin Township said, “Most of land has cracks and so it is hard to find smooth areas for the shelters.”

Aftershocks from the earthquake could be felt in Thabeikkyin Township throughout the day and night, according to local sources. “When we are there yesterday, there was still a little shaking,” agreed Soe Aung.

Maung Sein, a relief worker in Thabeikkyin Township, said that Monday’s aftershock in the capital Naypyidaw was actually spread over two separate incidences—one at 1 am and a second less powerful one at around 2 am.

“Many people could not sleep at night from fear as they are worried about what time another quake would happen,” he said.

Maung Sein said that people could not go to work and could suffer food shortages in the long term. “We have food to eat at the moment, but we do not know what will come next,” he said.

All public schools were closed in Thabeikkyin Township as the situation was not deemed stable and many classrooms were damaged.

“I had no previous experience of earthquakes,” said Maung Sein. “I wounded my knee when I fell down to the ground. I tried to stand up after falling but could not. It was scary to see the school had collapsed.”

The government says it has provided victims with rice, noodles, bean and clean water. Even some people who could return home stayed in the relief centers to share their supplies with the homeless, according to local sources.

Most houses, old buildings and monasteries located along the side Irrawaddy River in Sintku Township have collapsed, according to Soe Aung. “When we were there, the people told me that the water from the river jumped up around two feet [half a meter] during the earthquake,” he said.

More aid groups including United Nations agencies plan to visit the area and provide emergency supplies, according to the government.

The President’s Office revealed on its website on Monday that 25 public schools, 35 Buddhist monasteries, 45 pagodas, 55 civil servant houses, 201 civilian houses, 13 public hospitals, one bridge and five transformer towers were damaged by the earthquake.

Meanwhile, Burma’s Meteorological Department told local residents that aftershocks from the earthquake could continue in Sagaing and Mandalay divisions for two weeks.