A church has collapsed killing 25 members and injuring 50 others, during an evening meeting, in the powerful earthquakes that hit north east Burma (Myanmar) on Thursday. It is among 10 churches and over 100 other buildings destroyed.
According to a news relief from Tearfund (a relief and development agency), some initial reports have put the death toll at over 100 with more than 150 injured when three earthquakes measuring between 7.0 and 5.4 in magnitude struck the region popularly known as the Golden Triangle, bordering Laos and northern Thailand.
Other international media are reporting 74 killed and 111 injured, although they admit that figure could rise.
Tearfund said partner agencies are responding in the area of the epicenter, 35 miles south of Keng Tung, a Burmese town and 70 miles north of Chiang Rai in Thailand. Tearfund said they described the area as hilly and thickly populated and said that local people had fled their homes in panic.
Scott Coates, Director of Mekong Minority Foundation (MMF) said in the news release, “We have never experienced such earthquakes before. People rushed out; they panicked. They didn’t know what to do.”
Tearfund said MMF sent staff into Keng Tung early on Friday morning to assess the damage. The area between Tachilek and Keng Tung in north east Burma is reported to have suffered serious damage with bridges having collapsed making some places difficult to reach. Local sources said that Tanlay, a Shan ethnic minority town, had been completely destroyed.
Coates said that local churches will be at the front of the relief response. “Baptist churches are right there in the affected region and could be best placed to bring relief and hope to the people that have been affected,” he said in the news release.
It’s reported that tremors were felt in Bangkok, central Burma, parts of Laos and as far away as the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, leading to the evacuation of tall buildings and offices. Numerous aftershocks have been reported.
Tearfund said it is making emergency funds available to support MMF and other partners.
They are planning immediate relief such as temporary shelter, food rations and meeting basic medical needs – as well as looking at longer-term support for the region. This will include working with communities to reduce the risks when facing further earthquakes and other disasters.
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency building a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty.
For more information go to www.tearfund.org