Quake kills seven in Bhutan: official | world | Hindustan Times
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Quake kills seven in Bhutan: official

world Updated: Sep 21, 2009 20:10 IST

A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan on Monday, killing at least seven people and damaging monasteries and other buildings, officials and reports said.

The seven died after buildings collapsed in two regions east of the capital Thimpu, an official at the government's disaster management unit said.

"We now have five confirmed deaths from house collapses in Munggar and two people were killed when a two-storey building collapsed in the neighbouring district of Tashigang," U Tenzin told AFP by telephone from Thimpu.

"It's hard to determine the extent of the damage at the moment. There is still information coming in."

According to the US Geological Survey, which initially put the quake at 6.3-magnitude before revising down, the epicentre was located just inside Bhutan's border with India, 180 kilometres (115 miles) east of Thimpu, at a shallow depth of 7.2 kilometres.

Tenzin said three people were injured in Munggar and some buildings had caved in, most of which were made of mud and stone.

The quake sent boulders down hillsides in eastern Bhutan, blocking roads to remote, hilly regions, he added. The strong quake damaged monasteries and homes.

"There are reports of landslides in some areas," Tenzin said.

The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel reported online that monasteries and other buildings had been damaged in Munggar.

Sherab Tenzin, district magistrate of Munggar, told AFP by telephone shortly after the quake struck that many of the mud and stone buildings in the area showed signs of damage, but there was no widespread destruction.

Teams of police and rescue personnel were moving out across the region to assess the damage, he said.

The tremors were also felt in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka and in Lhasa, the capital of the Chinese region of Tibet, according to Chinese state media.

Strong tremors lasting up to 20 seconds were felt 125 kilometres away in Guwahati, the capital of India's northeastern state of Assam, where nervous residents ran into the streets.

Cracks appeared in several buildings in the city but there was no serious damage, witnesses said.

Home to just over 600,000 people and wedged in remote hills and mountains between India and China, Bhutan held its first democratic elections for a new parliament and prime minister in March last year.

The country had no roads or currency until the 1960s and allowed television only in 1999. It also famously uses the principle of 'Gross National Happiness', and not common economic indicators, to measure national well-being.

Most of its largely Buddhist population live by subsistence farming, animal husbandry and forestry.