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Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 11:15 UK

Bhutan PM laments quake disaster

Injured quake victim
Scores of people are feared injured (Photo courtesy of Kuensel newspaper)

The prime minister of Bhutan has described an earthquake which hit the Himalayan kingdom on Monday as "one of the biggest disasters in recent times".

The prime minister and home minister are now visiting the affected areas.

Officials say more than 1,100 homes have been damaged by the 6.1 magnitude earthquake, and thousands of people have been forced to live in the open.

Rescue teams are scouring eastern Bhutan for survivors. So far at least 11 people have been confirmed dead.

After tremors are still been felt by villagers near the epicentre of the earthquake, close to Bhutan's border with India, 180km (115 miles) east of the capital, Thimphu.

Injured

"It wasn't only the magnitude on the Richter scale but also the intensity because, from what we know, the first tremor lasted for almost five seconds, which is very long," Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley told the Kuensel newspaper.

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"This is one of the biggest disasters we've seen in recent times."

Scores of people are believed to have been injured by the quake, many of them children caught underneath collapsing buildings.

"I'm going to the affected places to condole with the people and understand the difficulties, the extent of the damages they have suffered and, essentially, to see how best we can respond to the situation on site, as well as upon return to render our support services," Mr Lyonchhoen told Kuensel.

Officials say that the priority now is for the army to ensure that shelter, food and medication are provided for homeless people. They say that most of the road blockages created by the quake have now been removed.

One shopkeeper in the earthquake zone said that it struck as people were busy shopping for the Blessed Rainy Day Buddhist ceremony.

Earthquale damage in Bhutan
Many houses have been destroyed (Photo courtesy of Bhutan Broadcasting Service)

"Most of the houses here are now irreparable, I think we're going to be sleeping outside for many nights," she said.

Most of the deaths have been reported from the eastern districts of Mongar and Trashigang, close to the epicentre of the earthquake.

The quake was also felt in northern India and Bangladesh.

Residents in Guwahati in the Indian state of Assam reported cracks appearing in several buildings, but no serious damage.

The US Geological Survey initially reported the quake's magnitude as 6.3 but later revised it down to 6.1.



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