4 Jan 2016

Quake strikes India, toppling buildings

8:44 pm on 4 January 2016

An earthquake measuring 6.7 magnitude has hit northeast India, near its borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds.

This picture taken from Instagram shows damage from a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake

This picture taken from Instagram shows damage from a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake Photo: AFP

The quake hit early Monday morning local time about 29km northwest of Imphal, the capital of Manipur state, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Strong tremors have been felt across the region.

The earthquake was originally reported to have measured 6.8 magnitude.

The tremor cracked walls and a newly-built six-storey building in Imphal collapsed, police said. There were reports several other buildings have also collapsed.

At least five people have been killed in Manipur and more than 100 injured.

Local journalist Paojel Chaoba described being woken by a terrible jolt.

"We ran out into the street below.

"It was a complete scene of panic: people were fleeing their homes, and shouting."

The worst affected area appears to be the Mother's Market or the 'Ima Keithel' area. It is home to lots of buildings, private houses, a hospital and the city's press club.

Many of them have been damaged in the quake and the entire area has been cordoned off. A number of buildings there have been evacuated.

A number of electricity lines have been damaged and many areas are without power.

At the main regional hospital in Imphal, 37 people have been admitted with injuries.

"It was like being tossed around in a frying pan," said Joy Thanglian, a 33-year-old employee of state energy firm Bharat Petroleum. "Then we ran outside."

An injured Indian woman is comforted by her husband as she waits for treatment

An injured Indian woman is comforted by her husband as she waits for treatment Photo: AFP

Deepak Shijagurumayum, a resident of Imphal, told the AFP news agency by phone that his house was severely damaged by the quake.

"Almost everyone was asleep when it struck and were thrown out of their beds," Mr Shijagurumayum said.

"People were crying and praying in the streets and in open spaces. Hundreds remained outdoors for several hours fearing aftershocks."

Shaking was felt as far away as Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), 600km away.

Some people criticized 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 government has not given us any information."

Government officials leading the rescue effort could not immediately be reached for comment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had spoken to the region's chief ministers and federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh "on the situation arising in the wake of the earthquake".

An Indian man stands at a collapsed building following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, in Imphal

An Indian man stands at a collapsed building following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, in Imphal Photo: AFP

Casualties have not yet been reported on the Myanmar side of the border, which is sparsely populated.

The region has a history of powerful earthquakes caused by the northward collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates. They are moving towards each other at a rate of 4-5cm per year.

In 2005, a magnitude 7.6 quake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir left more than 75,000 people dead.

In April 2015, Nepal suffered its worst earthquake on record with 9000 people killed and about 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

-BBC/ Reuters

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