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7 Chiang Rai districts named disaster zones

Earthquake kills an 83yearold, injures 23 residents; three provinces hit hard

THREE PROVINCES in the North are still struggling with the impact of Thailand's strongest earthquake in decades.

Houses, hotels, hospitals, schools, shops and temples have sustained damage, with services disrupted at many businesses.

Casualties were reported in Chiang Rai, the hardest-hit province, with the epicentre of Monday's 6.3-magnitude quake in its Phan district.

An 83-year-old local woman was fatally injured when a section of her house wall fell on her. She later succumbed to her injuries at hospital.

"The quake has also injured 23 other victims," Chatchai Phromlert, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department director-general, said yesterday.

Seven districts of Chiang Rai have been declared disaster-hit zones in the wake of the big quake.

More than 100 aftershocks were recorded yesterday, with some reaching a magnitude of well over 5.

The Chiang Rung Hotel in Phan district is closed temporarily to repair damage from the quake.

"It will take one or two months to fix it all," said the hotel's owner, Manas Chanprasit.

He said Monday's quake shook his four-storey hotel seriously and frightened his guests.

"They rushed out of their rooms and scurried to the ground floor, and the power went out."

Kriangkrai Weerarittipan, honorary chairman of the Chiang Rai Industry Council, said the province's business sector was hit hard, as stocked goods were damaged and several shops would have to close.

Phanphittayakhom School in Phan district is closed and the building declared a danger zone.

"Experts have examined our main building and warned us the structure is at risk of crumbling," the school's director Sanong Sujarit said.

He said the school building was leaning backward towards a public road, prompting authorities to declare the road off-limits too.



Road cracks

According to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, at least two roads were damaged in Chiang Rai.

The Highways Department closed some sections of Highway 118 yesterday for safety reasons as officials fixed deep splits in the road surface.

The National Office of Buddhism said 12 temples in Chiang Rai had suffered from quake damage. Among the badly hit is the world-famous Wat Rong Khun.



Hospitals feel the pinch

Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat confirmed that the quake had caused serious damage to Mae Lao Hospital in Chiang Rai.

"With all the cracks and damage, the building's steel structure is now visible," he said.

As an emergency measure, he said medical staff had erected tents to provide services to patients.

Narong said its 17 inpatients had been transferred to another hospital nearby.

He added that some other hospitals also reported cracks but all could still function and operate their services.

Flight and train services to the quake-hit North have continued as usual. There is no damage reported to train tracks, according to preliminary inspections by the State Railway of Thailand.

Chiang Rai Airport can still facilitate flight landings and take-offs.




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