Five die as quake hits north-east, West Bengal (Afternoon Lead)

Imphal/Guwahati, Jan 4 (IANS) An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale jolted north-eastern states and West Bengal early on Monday, killing five people in Manipur and injuring more than 60 across the region.

Those killed included four women, Manipur’s Inspector General of Police Clay Khongsai told IANS. Rescuers worked furiously to rescue those trapped under mounds of debris.

Khongsai said several multi-storey buildings in Imphal collapsed while many vehicles were damaged. The death toll is expected to rise, an officer said in Imphal.

The quake had its epicentre in Manipur’s Tamenglong district and occurred at 4.35 a.m., snapping power supply across the state.

It also shook Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal, an official of the seismological centre in Meghalaya said. It was also felt in adjoining Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Imphal later felt an aftershock measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale.

Khongsai said the Emma market – the day market for women in Manipur – was badly damaged and cordoned off. “We are not allowing anyone to enter the market to prevent any loss of life.

“So far five deaths and 33 injuries have been reported from Imphal. Damages to a few buildings, residential units and government offices have been reported, including damage to a six-storey building,” a home ministry statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on phone. Ibobi Singh convened a cabinet meeting to review the situation.

Modi also asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh to oversee the situation.

In Guwahati, Rajnath Singh said all central assistance would be extended to the north-eastern states.

“The prime minister has asked me to coordinate with all the chief ministers in the region. I have spoken to almost all of them though I could not contact the Manipur chief minister.

“Manipur’s chief secretary told me the damage is more in the state. The centre will extend all required assistance to the north-eastern states to deal with the crisis.

“I have also spoken to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoiji,” said Rajnath Singh, on a two-day visit to Assam since Sunday.

A Guwahati report said at least 20 people suffered minor injuries as some buildings across Assam developed cracks due to the temblor.

Chief Executive Officer of Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) P.K. Tiwary said: “There are reports pouring in from different parts of the state about minor damage to buildings and houses. We are trying to verify the reports.”

He said there was no major damage or any causality in Assam.

The earthquake jolted the northern parts of West Bengal, particularly the districts of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, leaving at least a dozen people injured.

In Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, at least two people were killed and 100 others injured. Many people rushed out of their homes in panic.

The home ministry said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was coordinating with north-eastern states for rescue and relief.

“The NDMA has begun coordinating with the state governments, ministries of home affairs, defence, telecom, National Disaster Response Force, and government departments and agencies,” a statement said.

India’s north-east region is considered the sixth major earthquake-prone belt in the world. In September 2011, Sikkim suffered heavy damage following a quake.

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