At least 6 killed as 6.7 magnitude quake hits northeast

04 January 2016

At least six people were reported dead on Monday after a strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck northeast India near the country`s borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets.

Police said one man had died in Imphal, which is nearest to the epicentre, while another was reported dead in Bangladesh after apparently suffering a heart attack following the quake.

Dozens more were injured in the scramble to escape buildings in India and Bangladesh after they were woken by the early morning tremor.

Police in Dhaka said 40 people were being treated at a major hospital in the Bangladeshi capital, including one university student who jumped from a fourth-floor balcony and was in a critical condition.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:35 am local time (2305 GMT Sunday) 29 kilometres west-northwest of Imphal, capital of Manipur, where dozens of buildings were damaged.

An official at one of the main hospitals in Imphal said more than 50 people had been admitted since the quake, with head injuries and limb fractures.

Imphal resident Deepak Shijagurumayum whose house was severely damaged described scenes of chaos after the quake.

"Almost everyone was asleep when it struck and were thrown out of their beds," Shijagurumayum told AFP by phone from the city.

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

There were similar scenes in the northeast Indian city of Guwahati, the main commercial city of the mineral-rich state of Assam, where an AFP correspondent 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 local authorities in Assam about the impact of the quake.

The tremors were felt as far away as Kolkata some 600 kilometres distant, where buildings shook.

"Many people were seen coming out of their homes in panic," said local resident Rabin Dev.

India`s seven northeastern states, joined to the rest of the country by a narrow sliver of land, are located in an area of frequent seismic activity. The border region is remote and sparsely populated on the Myanmar side.

In 1950, dozens of villages were swallowed in a string of disasters generated by a powerful earthquake whose epicentre was in Tibet but which caused the greatest destruction to India`s Assam state.

More than 1,500 people died in the quake, which had a magnitude of 7.6, and its disastrous aftermath of landslides and floods.

Today there were no immediate reports of casualties on the Myanmar side of the border, a remote and sparsely populated area that suffered widespread damage this summer from landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains.

The USGS issued a yellow alert for casualties and damage, with a 35-per cent likelihood of between one and 10 deaths from the tremor.

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