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Earthquake cracks walls, roads in north Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) — A strong earthquake shook northern Thailand and Myanmar on Monday evening, smashing windows, cracking walls and roads and damaging Buddhist temples. No casualties were reported.

The airport in Chiang Rai, a northern Thai city near the epicenter of the shallow magnitude 6.3 temblor, evacuated people from its terminal, where display signs and pieces of the ceiling fell. There was no damage to the runway or flight disruptions, airport General Manager Damrong Klongakara said.

A well-known temple near the city, the all-white Wat Rongkhun, was closed due to safety concerns after the earthquake. "The spire of the main building came off and the tiles on the roof fell off," Chalermchai Kositpiphat, the artist who designed the temple, told Nation TV. "I still don't know how we can sleep tonight. ... It was shaking the whole time and then aftershocks followed four to five times."

Chalermchai said the temple's murals were also damaged. "I don't know how many years it will take me to fix it," he said. "It was shaking like the earth was going to explode." The head of a Buddha statue fell at the Udomwaree Temple in Chiang Rai, according to monk Phra Pathompong. A residential building at the temple also had exterior cracks and ceiling damage, and residents reported minor damage in their homes, he said.

In Chiang Rai's Phan district, a road was split by multiple cracks, the worst a waist-high gash about the length of three vehicles. People ran down stairs in office buildings in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, and severe shaking also was felt in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-largest city. Window curtains briefly swayed in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

No casualties were reported and only roads and buildings were damaged, said Anusorn Kaewkangwan, deputy director-general at the Interior Ministry. Thailand's Meteorological Department said the quake was magnitude 6.3. The U.S. Geological Survey measured it at 6.0 and said the epicenter was 9 kilometers (6 miles) south of Mae Lao and 27 kilometers (17 miles) southwest of Chiang Rai. Its depth was a relatively shallow 7.4 kilometers (4.6 miles). Shallow quakes often cause more damage.

Southeast Asia is seismically active and quakes are often felt in surrounding nations. Thailand has several faults, though in recent times quakes centered in the country have been less severe than those in other Southeast Asian nations such as Myanmar and Indonesia.

A 9.1-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 8,000 people in Thailand's coastal areas, among its overall death toll of 240,000.

The last earthquake in Thailand approaching the size of Monday's quake registered magnitude 5.1 on Dec. 13, 2006, in Chiang Mai province.

Associated Press writers Christie Hampton and Grant Peck contributed to this report.

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