Earthquake in Myanmar destroys dozens of ancient temples in Bagan
A powerful earthquake has killed at least three people and destroyed dozens of temples and stupas in the ancient city of Bagan in central Myanmar.
The 6.8 magnitude quake shook buildings across the Southeast Asian country, with tremors felt as far away as Thailand – where witnesses reported high rise towers swaying in Bangkok – Bangladesh and eastern India.
Fire department and Red Cross officials said two children were killed in the small town of Yenanchaung, south of Chauk.
“Two young girls died when a pagoda collapsed on a river bank,” said Moe Thidar Win, deputy director of the disaster management team at the Myanmar Red Cross Society. “One man died in a Pakokku tobacco factory when the roof collapsed on him.”
More than 2000 Buddhist structures have stood on the eastern banks of Ayeyarwady River there for thousands of years, although most had been rebuilt or restored at various times. Dramatic video on social media showed one temple crumbling as the earthquake struck at a depth of 84 kilometres, 30 kilometres south of Bagan.
Officials of Myanmar’s department of archaeology were assessing the damage on Wednesday evening.
Bagan is one of Asia’s top attractions and is known as the “city of four million Pagodas”. Holy sites include the Ananda Temple, built in 1091, which is topped with a golden stupa.
Bangladesh television showed people running into the streets in towns near the border with Myanmar. At least 20 people were injured as workers tried to flee a building in an industrial area of Dhaka.
Save the Children’s Vincent Panzani, who is in the Myanmar town of Pakokku, said:
“We felt quite heavy shaking for about 10 seconds and started to evacuate the building when there was another strong tremor.
“Most of the reports of damage have been to the pagodas in the area with dozens impacted, particularly around Bagan. There have also been reports of damage to smaller, more basic buildings including several cracked or collapsed walls and a destroyed roof.”
“Several of our staff who’ve lived in this part of Myanmar their whole lives said it was the strongest earthquake they’ve ever felt.”
Tremors in Bagan lasted for several minutes, witnesses said.
“My house shook during the quake. Many people were scared and they ran out of the buildings,” Maung Maung Kyaw, a local official of the ruling National League for Democracy told Reuters.
“I went outside to check the situation in the town. Some of the buildings are split and nearly collapsed, but I don’t see any people affected by the quake,” Maung Maung Kyaw said.
“So far as we heard from our local staff, a three-storey building collapsed in Chauk and a pagoda was badly damaged in a town called Yenanchaung,” a fire department official in the regional capital Magwe told Reuters.
“We haven’t heard any information about casualties.”
Ko Tin Ko Lwin, a resident of Yenanchaung township, told Reuters that a pagoda that had been cracked before the quake had collapsed, while electricity poles and some trees were felled. The quake shook buildings in Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon and in other towns and cities, witnesses said.
Earthquakes are relatively common in Myanmar, whish is also known as Burma. Myanmar is in a seismically active part of the world where the Indo-Australian Plate runs up against the Eurasian Plate. In March, 2011, at least 74 people were killed in an earthquake in Myanmar near its borders with Thailand and Laos.