A strong earthquake of magnitude-6.8 struck northern Burma today, collapsing a bridge and a gold mine, damaging several old Buddhist pagodas and leaving as many as 12 people feared dead. A slow release of official information left the actual extent of the damage unclear; the epicenter was near the town of Shwebo. Burma has a poor official disaster response system, despite having lost upwards of 140,000 people to a devastating cyclone in 2008. The US Geological Society reported a 5.8-magnitude aftershock later today, but there were no reports of new damage or casualties.
A report on state television MRTV said 100 homes, some government buildings, and a primary school were damaged in Thabeikyin, a town known for gold mining not far from the epicenter. The region is a center for mining of minerals and gemstones, and some of the dead were miners who were killed when a gold mine collapsed. Several people died when a bridge under construction across the Irrawaddy River collapsed east of Shwebo. Weekly Eleven also said two monasteries in Kyaukmyaung collapsed, killing two people. "This is the worst earthquake I felt in my entire life," said Soe Soe, a 52-year-old Shwebo resident. Many in Burma are superstitious, and it is likely that local soothsayers will point out that the quake occurred on the 11th day of the 11th month.