Earthquake epicentre found to be in Mae Lao

CHIANG RAI, Thailand - The Department of Mineral Resources yesterday changed the epicentre of Monday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the North from Chiang Rai's Phan district to Mae Lao district.

This relocation of the epicentre comes after the department's team of experts surveyed the affected area over the past two days and found new evidence indicating that the epicentre was located in Mae Lao district's tambon Dong Ma Da.

Previously, the Thai Meteorological Department said the epicentre was in Phan district's tambon Sai Khao, though four days later the Department of Mineral Resources' team realised it was actually 20 kilometres away.

Phayao fault dormant

The Active Fault Research Unit's director Suwit Kosuwan, who led a survey team, said his team found roads in tambon Dong Ma Da cracked in several places, large amounts of mud rising from underground and many houses severely damaged.

Plus, this tambon is close to the Phayao active fault.

"Finding a new location of the epicentre has prompted us to renew the estimation of damages caused by the earthquake," he said.

Since the frequency and strength of the aftershocks had decreased, people whose houses had only been slightly damaged could return home.

However, people whose homes had been badly damaged should stay away, he advised.

At 3am yesterday, a 4-magnitude aftershock was felt in the area, though he said his team did not detect any activity in the Phayao fault.

Meanwhile, the Engineering Institute of Thailand found that at least 20 houses in tambon Dong Ma Da had been demolished by the earthquake.

Assoc Prof Penneung Warnit-chai, an earthquake expert at the Asian Institute of Technology, who was also part of the inspection team, said the damage incurred was low when compared with similar earthquakes in other countries. He added that the buildings that crumbled were built using soft materials.

However, he voiced concern about what might happen in Bangkok if there are any strong earthquakes nearby.

According to a study, he said about 10 of 1,400 buildings that are 20 to 30 storeys high could be at risk of collapsing in the capital.


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