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Myanmar assesses damage after 6.8 magnitude earthquake kills 3, sends troops to rebuild ancient pagodas

A photographer walks past a collapsed pagoda after the earthquake in Bagan. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Yangon Region, Myanmar Aug 25, 2016, 07.54 AM (IST)

Myanmar took stock of toppled spires and crumbling temple walls in the ancient capital Bagan today after a powerful earthquake hit the country, killing three and damaging the top tourist destination.

Two young girls and a man died in Magway region where the 6.8 magnitude quake struck Wednesday evening, cracking buildings across centre of the country and sending tremors that were felt as far away as Bangkok and Kolkata. 

While Red Cross continued to provide help and assistance in search and rescue operations, it was not treating it as a major emergency situation, Amanda George from the International Red Cross in Myanmar said. 

"We continue to provide assistance to injured people, but we don't see this as a major disaster."

At least 187 centuries-old pagodas damaged 

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the quake struck near the town of Chauk, south of Bagan, about 175 km (110 miles) southwest of the country's second city Mandalay at around 5 pm (1030 GMT).  

At least 185 centuries-old pagodas were damaged in ancient capital Bagan, home to a vast plain of some 2,500 Buddhist monuments that are among Myanmar's most venerated religious sites. Truckloads of soldiers and squadrons of police have today been sent to protect and rebuild the Buddhist brick temples.

"First we need to figure out the extent of the damage," Arkar Kyaw, the deputy director of Myanmar's culture ministry said.

"Then we will make a renovation plan," he told AFP, adding that the government is working directly with UNESCO.

Bagan rivals Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Borobudur in Indonesia as Southeast Asia's premier archaeological site. Myanmar is eager to see the city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Southeast Asian country is in a seismically active part of the world where the Indo-Australian Plate runs up against the Eurasian Plate. A magnitude 6.9 tremor hit northwestern Myanmar in April but caused no major loss of life.

The Fire Department and police in the town of Pakkoku, the biggest of the towns close to the epicentre, said many buildings were cracked and it has sent several trucks to assess the damage.

In Chauk, one building had nearly collapsed and was sealed off, according to a local official from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

"Other buildings have visible cracks, but apart from that there's no extensive damage," said Maung Maung Kyaw.

(WION with inputs from agencies) 

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