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6.0-magnitude quake strikes northern Thailand

A strong and shallow earthquake rattled northern Thailand on Monday, shaking tall buildings in Bangkok hundreds of kilometres to the south, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

BANGKOK: A strong and shallow earthquake rattled northern Thailand on Monday afternoon, shaking tall buildings in Bangkok hundreds of miles to the south, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The 6.0-magnitude quake, at a depth of just 7.4 kilometres (4.5 miles), struck just after 6pm local time (1100 GMT), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The USGS initially said the quake was of 6.3 magnitude but later downgraded it.

The epicentre was around 27 kilometres from the mountainous town of Chiang Rai.

There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries, although residents said they had seen cracked building facades, broken shop windows and damage to roads. An official said power had been cut in Phan district where the epicentre was.

"So far there are no reports of injured or dead," said Manat Khamtai, head of the Disaster Mitigation Department in Chiang Rai province.

"In Phan there's a report that a school building has been cracked and the power is still out across the district," he said.

As darkness fell, another official warned residents in the province to brace for aftershocks.

"This is the most powerful earthquake to strike the country in recent times," Burin Wechbunthung, a seismologist at the Meteorological Department, told AFP, adding there have been five aftershocks within a 150-kilometre radius of the epicentre.

A resident in Chiang Rai reported around 10 seconds of vigorous shaking, followed by several aftershocks.

"It was a very big quake... but hopefully the damage is not too bad," Tuenjai Deetes told AFP by telephone.

"I heard that the head of a Buddha statue at a temple in Phan district fell off in the earthquake and parts of the ceiling at Chiang Rai airport collapsed," she added.

The area is a remote mountain retreat near the border with Myanmar and Laos and popular with foreign tourists.

Another official from the Meteorological Department said the quake had a 6.1-magnitude.

"The earthquake occurred on the Phayao fault line. This fault line covers Phayao and Chiang Rai provinces. Officials are checking how bad the damage is," Sophon Chaiya told reporters.

The quake was felt in the city of Chiang Mai 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of Chiang Rai and as far away as Bangkok, 800 kilometres to the south, where tall buildings shook for several seconds.

It was also felt in Myanmar's commercial centre of Yangon, an AFP reporter there said.

Major earthquakes are rare in Thailand, although tremors often strike the north of the country.

A 6.8-magnitude quake hit Myanmar's eastern state of Shan in March 2011, leaving dozens dead near the border with Thailand and Laos and reducing homes and government buildings to rubble.

The area hit in 2011 is close to Chiang Rai and prompted the then-government to call for a review of Thailand's preparedness for a major seismic event.

Chiang Rai province is dotted with national parks which draw droves of tourists, many of them travelling from Chiang Mai.

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