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Myanmar

Shallow, 6.6 magnitude quake hits central Myanmar

An earthquake has struck central Myanmar on the west bank of the country's most important commercial waterway, followed by a series of aftershocks. There were no immediate reports on damage or casualties.

The US Geological Survey put the scope of the quake, which hit at 7:42 a.m. local time (0112 UTC) on Sunday morning, at magnitude 6.6.

The tremor was rather shallow at 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles) deep. The two strongest aftershocks both registered magnitudes of 5.0. The initial earthquake's epicenter was roughly 52 kilometers north-northeast Shwebo, or around 117 kilometers north of Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay.

The USGS issued a yellow alert for the quake, meaning that casualties and damage were possible, albeit in a relatively localized area, although there were no initial reports of either. The Mandalay Meteorological Department said the quake hit the west bank of Myanmar's largest river, the Ayeyawaddy. The river is also a key commercial waterway in the impoverished Asian country.

Residents in Bangkok told Reuters that they had felt the tremor, whose epicenter was over 1,500 kilometers to the north of the Thai capital.

A March 2011 quake near Myanmar's borders with Thailand and Laos, with a similar magnitude of 6.8, claimed more than 70 lives.

Myanmar's quasi-civilian government is seen as having made tentative steps towards democratization in the country after almost half a century of military rule. The US, EU, and others have relaxed sanctions as a result. US President Barack Obama is due to visit the country between November 17 and 20; he will be the first US president to go there.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)