03/28/2011, 00.00
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Myanmar earthquake followed by new aftershocks as death toll tops 150

Eight aftershocks strike Shan state, on the border with Thailand. Official death toll stands at 75 but others say actual number is 150. Sources tell AsiaNews that churches and Christian-owned buildings collapsed in Monglin.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – New quakes have hit eastern Myanmar, on the Thai border, where a 6.8-magnitude quake struck last Thursday, killing 75 people according to official sources. The number could actually be higher and an independent group actually put it at 150. Many areas remain inaccessible to rescue workers. Catholic sources in the country told AsiaNews that churches have been destroyed and many Christians killed, especially in Monglin, first mission set up by Fr Clemente Vismara, a PIME missionary.

Four days after the quake that hit Myanmar’s Shan state, independent sources report about 150 dead and more than 300 buildings damaged. The lack of drinking water is becoming the major concern.

At least 15,000 people were affected by quake, many living in remote hard-to-get areas. In Tarlay alone near the Thai border, damages are estimated to be around US$ 3.5 million.

During the weekend, several aftershocks were registered, the highest at 4.8 in the town of Loi Mwe, some 80 km north of Tarlay.

The government emergency centre warned that aftershocks should continue over the next few days. Eight have been registered so far, following the one that struck at 8.25 pm on Thursday.

Landslides are now another problem given the fragile soil of the area. Likewise, activists and volunteers have sounded the alarm because of drinking water shortages.

Unlike the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 people, Myanmar’s military regime this time did not impose any rigid censorship on reporting the natural disaster. However, many local residents have lamented the lack of "concrete assistance from authorities".

Catholic sources told AsiaNews that “Monglin is the hardest hit area”, where Fr Clemente Vismara, a PIME priest who spent most of his life in the former Burma, set up his first mission.

“The church built by Fr Vismara, his old house and the building that once housed nuns have collapsed,” a source said. A second church collapsed in Tiri, just before Monglin. “Three people who lived in the old nuns’ house died,” the source added.

In the past few days, the Bishop of Kengtung, Mgr Peter Louis Cakü, visited Monglin to see firsthand the situation and bring comfort to quake victims.

(Pictured, a collapsed church in Tarlay, photo published in the Burmese newspaper The Irrawaddy)

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