Quake in India kills 8, with death toll set to rise

Residents inspecting the wreckage of a building in Imphal yesterday, after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck north-east India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Residents inspecting the wreckage of a building in Imphal yesterday, after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck north-east India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GUWAHATI (India) • At least eight people were killed and scores injured when a 6.7-magnitude quake struck north-east India early yesterday morning, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets even hundreds of kilometres away in Bangladesh.

Five people were killed in India, the government said, while three people died in Bangladesh from strokes or heart attacks after the quake hit. Tremors were also felt in Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.

Indian government seismologists said the earthquake's epicentre was in the Tamenglong district of Manipur state, near the border with Myanmar.

Mr Anurag Gupta of India's National Disaster Management Authority said: "Five people are confirmed dead and 33 have been injured in (Manipur's capital) Imphal. A six-storey building was partially damaged and some small structures have also developed cracks."

Two or three multi-storey buildings collapsed in Imphal, a city of about 270,000 people, but casualties were relatively low because most buildings in the city are small structures, said disaster relief official Nandita Hazarika, describing the Tamenglong region as "very, very sparsely populated".

The death and injury tolls are expected to rise as disaster response teams arrived in Manipur from the neighbouring state of Assam yesterday morning.

Imphal resident Deepak Shijagurumayum, whose house was severely damaged, described scenes of chaos. "Almost everyone was asleep when it struck and were thrown out of their beds," he said. "People were crying and praying in the streets and in open spaces. Hundreds remained outdoors for several hours fearing aftershocks."

Residents said electricity and telecommunications links had been cut in parts of Manipur, hampering efforts to save those trapped in rubble. Some people criticised what they called the authorities' slow response, saying that although the army had begun to clear debris, it appeared to be short of heavy equipment. "We haven't seen any help from the government side," said disaster volunteer worker Kangujam.

The tremors were felt as far away as Kolkata, some 600km away in West Bengal state, where buildings shook. There were similar scenes in the north-eastern city of Guwahati, in the state of Assam, where a journalist said residents were "in a state of shock" after being woken by the shaking. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had spoken to the local authorities in Assam about the impact of the quake.

In Bangladesh, the earthquake triggered panic in the cities, with police saying at least 90 people were injured. One 23-year-old Bangladeshi man died after suffering a stroke when he ran out of his house, while two other people died of heart attacks, the police said.

People in Nepal ran from their homes, and the quake was also felt as far away as the Myanmar city of Yangon, about 1,176km to the south, residents said. An official at Myanmar's meteorological department in Naypyitaw said there were no reports of damage or casualties on its side of the border.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline 'Quake in India kills 8, with death toll set to rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe