Quake strikes South Asia; toll reaches nine dead, nearly 200 injured

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Earthquake Hits Northeast India

(Reuters) -- A powerful earthquake struck South Asia before dawn on Monday, killing at least nine people and injuring nearly 200, with efforts to rescue those trapped in rubble hampered by severed power supplies and telecommunication links.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake of magnitude 6.8 was 57 km (35 miles) deep and struck 29 km (18 miles) west of Imphal, the capital of India's northeastern state of Manipur, bordering Myanmar.

The quake struck while many residents were asleep, and roofs and staircases of some buildings collapsed in the city of about 270,000 people.

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"It was like being tossed around in a frying pan," said Joy Thanglian, a 33-year-old employee of state energy firm Bharat Petroleum. "Then we ran outside."

Police and hospitals in Imphal said the toll had reached six dead, with 100 people injured, 33 of them seriously.

See photos of the deadly quake:

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6.7 magnitude earthquake hits India's northeast
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Quake strikes South Asia; toll reaches nine dead, nearly 200 injured
Indian soldiers and locals remove debris from a damaged building after an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
Security personel walk past a collapsed building following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, in Imphal on December 4, 2015. At least eight people were killed and scores injured January 4, when a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets even hundreds of kilometres away in Bangladesh. AFP PHOTO/ BIJU BORO / AFP / BIJU BORO (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)
Gopal Motea sits in front of his collapsed house where his mother and daughter were killed in a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, in Leimakhong village on the outskirts of Imphal, on January 4, 2016. At least eight people were killed and scores injured January 4, when a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets even hundreds of kilometres away in Bangladesh. AFP PHOTO/ BIJU BORO / AFP / BIJU BORO (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian men inspect the damage caused to a building that collapsed in an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
Indian bystanders look at the wreckage of a building in Imphal on January 4, 2016, after a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh. At least eight people were killed and scores injured when a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets even hundreds of kilometres away in Bangladesh. Five were killed in India, the government said, while three people died in Bangladesh after suffering strokes or heart attacks following the early-morning quake. AFP PHOTO/STR / AFP / STRDEL (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian man inspects damage caused to a house after an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
Cracks line the front of a telecommuncations building in Imphal on January 4, 2016, after a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh. At least eight people were killed and scores injured when a strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India, sending panicked residents fleeing into the streets even hundreds of kilometres away in Bangladesh. Five were killed in India, the government said, while three people died in Bangladesh after suffering strokes or heart attacks following the early-morning quake. AFP PHOTO/STR / AFP / STRDEL (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian soldiers remove debris from a house that collapsed in an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Worshon Ngashangva)
The interior of a house is damaged after an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
Map locates deadly earthquake in India; 1c x 3 3/4 inches; 46.5 mm x 95 mm;
Indian soldiers inspect a house that collapsed in an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Worshon Ngashangva)
The interior of a market is seen damaged in an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
The interior of a market is damaged after an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Bullu Raj)
People work on the outer wall of a house that collapsed in an earthquake in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit India's remote northeast region before dawn on Monday. (AP Photo/Yurreipem Arthur)
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"It was the biggest earthquake we've felt in Imphal," disaster response worker Kanarjit Kangujam told Reuters by telephone.

Rescue workers battled to find workers believed to have been buried beneath the rubble of a building that had been construction. They were unsure how many might be trapped.

Residents of Imphal said people fled their homes and power and telecoms links were down in the remote region.

At the airport, flights were normal, although a boundary wall collapsed, and a crack appeared in the terminal building, said Thanglian, who works there.

Some people criticized what they called the authorities' slow response, saying that although the army had begun to clear debris, it appeared to be short of heavy equipment.

"We haven't seen any help from the government side," said disaster volunteer worker Kangujam. "The government has not given us any information."

Government officials leading the rescue effort could not immediately be reached for comment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was in touch with authorities in the northeast. Rescue teams from Guwahati, in neighboring Assam state, were scrambling to reach Imphal.

People in Bangladesh and the Himalayan nation of Nepal ran from their homes, and the quake was also felt as far away as the Myanmar city of Yangon, about 1,176 km (730 miles) to the south, residents said.

Media in Bangladesh reported three people died of heart attacks with police saying at least 90 were injured.

An official at Myanmar's meteorological department in Naypyitaw, the capital, said there were no reports of damage or casualties on the Myanmar side of the border.

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