Strong earthquake strikes near Thai-Laos border

Strong earthquake strikes near Thai-Laos border

Screengrab from USGS
Screengrab from USGS. 

BANGKOK: A strong earthquake struck near the border of Thailand and Laos on Thursday (Nov 21), setting high-rise buildings swaying in Bangkok, and prompting at least one power plant in Laos to suspend operations for precautionary checks.

The United States Geological Survey said the 6.1-magnitude quake hit at a depth of 10km about 92km northeast of Muang Nan at around 6.50am (2350 GMT) local time.

There were no reports of casualties or major damage from the quake.

The quake was felt across northern Thailand and by people in tall buildings as far away as Bangkok, more than 600km to the south. Residents near the epicentre said they felt several aftershocks.

"The shaking ... was the main shock from a quake in Laos at 6.50am and was felt in northern and northeastern Thailand and Bangkok and suburbs," said Sophon Chaila, an official at the Thai Meteorological Department.

The department said the quake affected nine provinces in Thailand and there were four lesser aftershocks. It also became a top trending topic on Twitter in Thailand.

Residents in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi also felt buildings sway.

"The ceiling lights were shaking quite strongly. I felt dizzy and scared," said Hanoi resident Tran Hoa Phuong, who felt the earthquake in her 27-storey apartment building.

It hit about three hours after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the same region of Laos, near the site of the large Xayaburi dam project, which reported no damage so far.

After the first quake, the 1,878-megawatt Hongsa Power Plant - Laos' largest-capacity thermal energy generator - immediately suspended operations according to a statement from the Thai-owned company.

No "fundamental" damages or injuries have been found so far, "merely damages to the external texture of the buildings", it said, adding that Hongsa is expected to take 24 hours to complete its inspection.

Photos shared by Thai news showed portions of the power plant's walls had collapsed, and debris littered its premises.

Nearby Xayaburi dam project, one of Laos' largest hydropower dams, has seen "no impact" so far, and is continuing to generate electricity "as normal", said a statement from CK Power.

Information is slow to trickle out of the closed communist state, and there were similarly no official reports of damage or injuries after the twin quakes hit early Thursday.

Impoverished Laos has ploughed ahead with ambitious dam-building projects that critics say lack transparency and stringent safety measures.

The cost was laid bare last year when a massive hydropower project collapsed in southern Laos, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.

Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday and has a busy agenda Thursday meeting officials and the Thai king before he leads a mass in the evening.

READ: Visiting Thailand, Pope condemns exploitation of women and children

There was no word from his team on whether he felt the quake.

Powerful earthquakes occasionally strike hard in Southeast Asia.

In 2016 a 6.8-magnitude quake struck Myanmar, killing at least three people and damaging temples in the ancient temple town of Bagan.

Source: Agencies/nc