A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck northern Burma early on Sunday morning, causing a bridge and a gold mine to collapse, damaging ancient Buddhist pagodas, and causing the deaths of at least 12 people.
The epicenter of the tremor was 52 km northeast of the town of Shwebo, an underdeveloped area that nevertheless has several gemstone mines. Shwebo lies some 120 km north of Burma’s second largest city, Mandalay.
According to The Associated Press, a 5.8-magnitude aftershock was reported later on Sunday, but there were no initial reports of further damage or casualties.
The US Geological Society said that the quake occurred “as a result of right lateral strike-slip faulting within a broad region that accommodates the relative plate motions between the India plate to the west, and the Sunda and Eurasia plates to the east.”
It added the area within 250 km of the epicenter has seen eight earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more in the past 40 years, including a quake in Tachilek last March which left 74 dead and injured 111.
Burma’s state television showed Vice President Sai Maul Hkam visiting the town of Thabeikyin, near the epicenter, where the report said damage included 102 homes, 21 religious buildings, 48 government offices and four schools.
The report said that six people had been killed and 64 were injured. However, The Associated Press reported on Monday that the death toll had risen to 12 with more than 100 injured.
The most affected site was reportedly at a gold mine in Sintku Township on the Irrawaddy River. The Associated Press said that six people had died there and another 11 were injured—mostly miners.
According to news reports, several people died when a semi-constructed bridge across the Irrawaddy River collapsed east of Shwebo. The website of Weekly Eleven magazine said four people were killed and 25 were injured—all workers—when the bridge, which was 80 percent finished, fell.
Weekly Eleven also said that two monasteries in Kyaukmyaung collapsed, killing two people.
Other damage was reported in Mogok, a major gem-mining area just east of the quake's epicenter. Temples were damaged there, as were some abandoned mines.
State television also reported that the tremors shifted the Mingun Bell, which people in Burma claim is the world's largest functioning bell, off its base. The nearly 4-meter-high (12-foot-high) bell, which weighs in at 90 metric tons (200,000 pounds), was installed in 1810 and is a popular tourist attraction at a pagoda outside Mandalay.
The quake was felt in Naypyidaw, as well as Chiang Mai and Bangkok in neighboring Thailand.
The disaster is the second to strike northern Burma in three days. On Friday, a tanker train derailed about 128 km north of Shwebo, and at least 25 people were killed as they tried to skim fuel from the overturned carriages which then burst into flames.