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6.8-Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Myanmar


The ancient Sulamuni temple is seen shrouded in dust as a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan, Myanmar, Aug. 24, 2016.

A strong earthquake shook north-central Myanmar Wednesday, killing at least three people and damaging around 60 ancient Buddhist pagodas.

Two of the dead were girls ages 7 and 15.

Tremors of the 6.8-magnitude quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, were felt in the Thai capital, Bangkok, and Kolkata in India — each around 1,000 kilometers away.

The quake's epicenter was near the town of Chauk on the Irrawaddy River, at a depth of about 84 kilometers. Deep earthquakes generally cause less surface damage.

Lawmaker U Win Myint Khine, who represents the Chauk region, told VOA the tremors damaged at least 140 ancient temple structures in Bagan, a tentative world heritage site.

"It’s badly destroyed," Khine told VOA. "The 6.8 Richter scale magnitude is significantly strong, which is similar to the 1975 quake in Bagan. Some temples or pagoda tops enshrined with jewels also fell to the ground and we were able to keep them."

Culture ministry archaeologist U Aung Kyaw told VOA that security personnel have been dispatched to protect the sites from looting, and that emergency meetings were called to assess the damage.

“We are having emergency meeting to ... take necessary actions accordingly," he said. "All concerned departments are cooperating in this meeting."

Bagan is home to more than 2,000 ancient Buddhist structures, including temples and pagodas from the 10th through the 14th centuries, and is a popular tourist destination.

Although earthquakes are fairly common in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, the Southeast Asian country has not had a deadly one since a 6.8-magnitude quake in November 2012 killed nearly 40 people.

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit Myanmar this April, but caused only minor damage and no casualties.

(This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service.)