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Quake Shakes Himalayas Causing Deaths, Destruction in Bhutan

September 22, 2009

By Steve Herman
New Delhi
21 September 2009

A powerful earthquake has struck the Himalayan region, causing at least five
deaths and destruction in the small mountainous nation of Bhutan. The
tremor - measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale - shook a wide area.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Dhaka in Bangladesh and Lhasa in
Tibet. Buildings cracked in Guwahati, the capital of the northeast Indian
state of Assam. The epicenter of the quake was in the eastern part of the
remote nation of Bhutan, between India and China.

Bhutan Home Minister Minjur Dorji, speaking from the capital, Thimpu, told
VOA News there are fatalities and buildings collapsed in the Monggar region.

"We are anticipating that most of the houses are now down, destroyed," Dorji
said. "These are not like you see in the metropolitan cities, like concrete
houses. These are made of wood, mud and stone, generally two-storied

Monasteries and forts, which are used as government administration centers,
have also been damaged.

The Home Minister also says some roads have cracked or been blocked, meaning
it could be some time before officials are able to reach some of the remote
communities. But the Home Minister says mobile telephone service is working,
enabling communications with local officials who are rendering aid.

Dorji adds Bhutan's government is still gathering information about the
extent of the casualties and damage and it is premature to say whether the
country will request outside assistance.

In the Indian state of Assam, the earthquake caused cracks in some buildings
in the capital, Guwahati, sending panicked occupants into the streets.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the epicenter of the quake was near the
border of Bhutan and India, about 125 kilometers from Guwahati and at a
shallow depth of 7.2 kilometers.

The region is considered to be seismically active and last suffered a
devastating 8.5 magnitude quake in 1950, blamed on a collision of the Indian
and Eurasian tectonic plates. That temblor killed more than 1,500 people in
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