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Two children have died and 60 ancient temples have been damaged in a massive earthquake in Myanmar

Heavy damage was reported in Bagan, Myanmar’s most famous archaeological site and a major tourist destination some 30km north of the quake’s epicentre.

Balloons carrying tourists near old temples in Bagan, Myanmar. A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook central Myanmar today, damaging scores of ancient Buddhist pagodas in the former capital of Bagan.
Balloons carrying tourists near old temples in Bagan, Myanmar. A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook central Myanmar today, damaging scores of ancient Buddhist pagodas in the former capital of Bagan.

A POWERFUL 6.8 magnitude earthquake has struck central Myanmar, killing at least three people and damaging some 60 pagodas in the famous ancient city of Bagan, officials said.

The quake, which the US Geological Survey said hit at a depth of 84km (52 miles), was also felt across neighbouring Thailand, India and Bangladesh, sending panicked residents rushing onto the streets.

Two girls, aged 7 and 15, were killed in Magway region where the quake struck, according to Myanmar’s Ministry of Information.

A collapsed building in a nearby town also killed a 22-year-old man and injured one woman, local police told AFP.

Heavy damage was reported in Bagan – Myanmar’s most famous archaeological site and a major tourist destination some 30 kilometres north of the quake’s epicentre.

“About 60 pagodas in Bagan were damaged. Some were seriously damaged,” said Aung Kyaw, the director of Bagan’s culture department.

Myanmar Earthquake Temples in Bagan, Myanmar photographer earlier this year. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Crumbling

Photos showed clouds of dust billowing around some of the site’s massive temples, with bricks crumbling down their tiered facades.

A tourist police officer from Bagan said a Spanish holidaymaker was slightly hurt when the quake knocked her from the temple where she was watching the sunset.

Scaling Bagan’s ancient structures to watch the sun set over the city’s 2,500 monuments is a daily ritual among tourists and local pilgrims.

The temples, built between the 10th and 14th centuries, are revered in the Buddhist-majority country and a top draw for its growing tourism industry.

Myanmar, which has opened its doors to a rising tide of visitors since emerging from junta rule in 2011, is eager to see the ancient capital designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Myanmar Daily Life Source: AP/Press Association Images

‘Still scared’

Soe Win, a local politician from Chauk – the riverside town closest to the epicentre – said the tremors were the worst he had experienced in years.

“More than eight pagodas in town collapsed,” the 50-year-old told AFP, referring to Chauk.

Two buildings collapsed as well, while some others were cracked. People in town are still scared.

Damage was also reported in the capital Naypyidaw some 200km away, with MP Thiri Yadanar posting photos on Facebook of cracked glass windows inside a parliament building.

The earthquake caused high-rise buildings in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon to sway, as well as those in the Thai capital Bangkok and the Indian city of Kolkata.

“Services of the underground railway have been suspended fearing aftershocks of the quake,” Kolkata Metro Railway spokesman Indrani Banerjee told AFP.

The quake was also felt throughout south and southwestern Bangladesh close to the border with Myanmar, with residents running outside.

India Myanmar Earthquake People stand outdoors after they rushed pout of their offices following tremors in Kolkata, India, today - miles from the epicentre in central Myanmar. Source: Bikas Das

At least 20 people were injured as workers tried to flee a building in the Savar industrial district outside Dhaka, ATN Bangla television reported.

“All of us ran to the streets leaving the houses and shops unsecured as the quake seemed very dangerous,” Nazmus Sakib, from the southern city of Chittagong near the Myanmar border, wrote on his Facebook wall.

Earthquakes are relatively common in Myanmar, although the country has not suffered a major one since 2012.

That powerful tremor – also of 6.8 magnitude – struck the centre of the country, killing 26 people and injuring hundreds.

- © AFP, 2016

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