Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Hits As COVID-Ravaged India Logs 200,000 Virus Deaths

 A powerful 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Covid-ravaged India today, sending terrified residents fleeing as the aftershocks were felt for hundreds of miles.  

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was in a hilly region in Assam state near India's border with Bhutan. 

There have been no reports of casualties so far, with residents saying the main human toll was stress, minor cuts and bruises.

It comes as India is in the throes of a savage second wave of coronavirus, with more than 360,000 cases recorded on Wednesday as the death toll soared over 200,000. 

Fortunately northeastern India, where this morning's quake struck, has not yet experienced a widespread outbreak of coronavirus, being more sparsely populated than the central and western states. 

The quake was felt for hundreds of miles, as far away as the state of Bengal, as well as neighbouring Bhutan and Bangladesh. 

It rocked Tezpur, a city of 100,000 people, located just 28 miles from the epicentre.

'It lasted more than 20 seconds and we were really scared,' Tezpur resident Swati Deb Dey said.

'The walls shook as we ran downstairs and even outside the road was moving. Everyone is shocked,' she added.

Residents said many buildings suffered cracked walls and broken windows. Fissures spread across roads.

'There are some cracks in pillars and walls but no major damage or casualties so far,' said Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta, a police superintendent for Sonitpur district, which includes Tezpur.

'Our teams are on the ground and assessing the situation.' 

In Assam's main city, Guwahati, about 95 miles to the south, the quake shook buildings and chunks of concrete fell off the side of buildings that were cracked.

Residents said at least two big aftershocks were felt.

In Nagaon, one apartment block tilted onto an adjacent building.

Assam's Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted photos of broken walls in a Guwahati building minutes after the quake.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had spoken with state authorities and promised assistance from the central government.

'I pray for the well-being of the people of Assam,' Modi said on Twitter.

According to the USGS, the quake's relatively shallow depth of 21 miles had increased the risk of severe damage.

It said the main tremor struck at 0221 GMT in hills just north of Dhekiajuli, a town in a tea-growing district of northern Assam.

A second one with a magnitude of 4.0 hit 10 minutes later and others followed.

The Himalayan region is notorious for big earthquakes that hit each year.

A 1950 quake killed about 4,800 people in Assam and Tibet.

The Great Assam Earthquake of 1897 is said to be one of the most powerful to have hit India, leaving hundreds dead in the remote hills.

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