Aftershocks continued in Myanmar on Friday, and residents camped out on streets and in parks, praying at makeshift shrines after a major earthquake the night before killed more than 70 people, injured hundreds and shattered hundreds of buildings.
The tremors were also felt in neighboring Thailand and Laos, whose borders meet at Myanmar to form the Golden Triangle, as well as in southern China, in Vietnam and in Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, hundreds of miles away.
In a rising casualty count, the state-run media reported that 74 people had been killed and 111 had been injured. It added that 390 houses, 14 monasteries and 9 government buildings had been damaged.
The reports said two people were killed and six were receiving treatment for injuries here in Tachilek, a small city on the border with Thailand that advertises itself as the Golden Triangle City.
But an official at the district hospital here said that as many as 200 patients were being treated and that others were continuing to arrive.
He said he believed that the death toll had reached 100, but there was no way to confirm that independently.
Residents said many others were trapped near the epicenter about 60 miles to the north in Shan State after a major bridge collapsed, with some caught in landslides along rain-soaked riverbanks. Boats were being used to ferry the injured across the river.
On the sun-baked streets and in the parks of Tachilek, families remained outdoors, resting in the shade on straw mats and pillows. People built shrines in doorways out of little mounds of sand, sometimes using plastic cups as molds, topping the results with tiny white paper flags.
“Goddess of the earth, goddess of the sky, goddess of the house, goddess of the city, may I ask for the power to protect our home,” said Pa Hung, 85, lighting two yellow candles and inserting them into the mounds of sand at her house.
Beside the shrine was a large plastic bottle of water, and Pa Hung’s daughter, Nang Huan, 48, stared at it intently, watching for a tremor. All along the street, people had set up bottles of water or orange juice as early-warning signals of an aftershock.
“If you had been here last night, you would have seen people sleeping everywhere in the street,” Nang Huan said. She pointed to a large crack caused by the earthquake in the wall of a building across the street and said, “I don’t want to sit anywhere near that.”
Chai Nhung, 29, the driver of a three-wheel taxi, said an aunt and a cousin had been killed in a landslide at Ta Lua, on the far side of the river, and that because of the bridge collapse, it was impossible to bring their bodies to Tachilek for a funeral.
“Their house was beside the bridge, and the whole row of houses slid into the river,” he said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, with a magnitude of 6.8, was just six miles deep, meaning that severe shaking could have caused major damage to buildings in a wide area. The agency also reported a quake with a magnitude of 4.8 about half an hour later.
In Mae Sai, a Thai town across the border from Tachilek, officials said one woman had been killed in her sleep when a wall collapsed. Although buildings shook in Mae Sai and residents fled to the safety of the streets, officials said no major damage had been reported. Many tourists in nearby Chiang Mai, a Thai city, also spent much of the night outdoors.
Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephants, said the animals at her center in Lampang, Thailand, became restless and tugged at their chains shortly before the earthquake struck.
She said their keepers thought at first that the elephants had been frightened by snakes.
According to the Web site of The Irrawaddy, a Burmese exile magazine based in Thailand that has good sources inside Myanmar, at least 17 soldiers and family members were killed in Tachilek when a barracks building collapsed. It also said there were reports that some people who had fled to a recently built church in nearby Tarlay were killed when the church collapsed following an aftershock.
As the tremors radiated outward from this remote mountain area, buildings shook for more than a minute in the Chinese province of Yunnan and in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported.
The tremors caused panic in Hanoi, about 375 miles to the east of the epicenter, and residents said they heard windows shatter, the Vietnam News Agency reported. Tall buildings shook and lamps swayed in Bangkok, 480 miles to the south.
Jenny MacIntyre, communication manager for the aid group World Vision in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, said: “I suddenly felt really sick and strange, and I realized that everything was rocking and the light shades were all rocking. I’d experienced earthquakes before because I’m from Christchurch, New Zealand.”