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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        25  March 2011

Quake in Myanmar kills more than 50

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A strong earthquake in northeastern Myanmar has killed more than 40 people, and there were fears Friday the toll would mount as reports from more remote areas became known.

The Thursday night quake, measured at a magnitude 6.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey, was centered just north of the town Tachileik in the mountains along the Thai border, but was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in the Thai capital Bangkok and Vietnamese capital Hanoi. Myanmar state radio announced Friday that 41 people had been killed and 48 injured in the quake. It said 244 houses, 14 Buddhist monasteries and nine government buildings were damaged.

An official from the U.N.'s World Food Program said there were many casualties and serious damage in Mong Lin village, five miles (eight kilometers) from Tachileik. State radio said 29 were killed there and 16 injured.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that 15 houses collapsed in the village of Tarlay, where state radio said 11 were killed and 29 injured. Another U.N. official said a small hospital there was partially damaged as well as a bridge, making it difficult to access the village.

The newspaper said another two people were killed in Tachileik, including a 4-year-old boy. It said six people were injured in the town, which is just across the border from Mae Sai in Thailand's Chiang Rai province.

In Mae Sai, one woman was killed when a wall fell on her, according to Thai police, but damage was otherwise minimal.

Most of rural Myanmar, one of Asia's poorest countries, is underdeveloped, with poor communications and other infrastructure, and minimal rescue and relief capacity.

The second U.N. official said medicine would be sent to the affected areas as soon as possible along with an assessment team in cooperation with the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

Both U.N. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Myanmar's government frowns on giving unauthorized information to the media.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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