Strong quake strikes Myanmar, 12 feared dead

A strong earthquake of magnitude-6.8 struck northern Myanmar 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 after Sunday morning's strong quake. Myanmar has a poor official disaster response system, despite having lost upwards of 140,000 people to a devastating cyclone in 2008.

Myanmar's second-biggest city of Mandalay reported no casualties or major damage as the nearest major population center to the main quake Mandalay lies about 117 kilometers south of the quake's epicenter near the town of Shwebo.

The US Geological Society reported a 5.8-magnitude aftershock later Sunday, but there were no initial reports of new damage or casualties.

Smaller towns closer to the main quake's epicenter were worse-hit. A report latetoday on state television MRTV said 100 homes, some government buildings and a primary school were damaged in the Thabeikyin, a town known for gold mining not far from the epicenter. It put the latest casualty toll from the quake at four dead, 53 injured and four missing, a death toll lower than independently compiled tallies of around a dozen.

An official from Myanmar's Meteorological Department said the magnitude-6.8 quake struck at 7:42 am (local time).

The area surrounding the epicenter is underdeveloped, and casualty reports were coming in piecemeal, mostly from local media. The region is a center for mining of minerals and gemstones, and several mines were reported to have collapsed.

The biggest single death toll was reported by a local administrative officer in Sintku township, on the Irrawaddy River near the quake's epicenter, who told The Associated Press that six people had died there and another 11 were injured.

He said some of the dead were miners who were killed when a gold mine collapsed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because local officials are normally not allowed to release information to the media.

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