A quake of 6.4 magnitude shook Myanmar recently, causing tremors that could be felt across large parts of Thailand. This seismic event has led experts, in both engineering and academia, to call for the adoption of stricter regulations to bolster the resilience of standing structures against possible future tremors. The quake, registering a 6.4 magnitude, originated in Myanmar yesterday morning at 8.37am. According to the Earthquake Observation Division at the Meteorological Department, the quake’s epicenter was approximately 100 kilometer northwest of the Mae Sai district, located in the Chiang Rai province. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the quake hit approximately 76 kilometers southwest of Kengtung town, Shan State, plunging nine kilometers in depth.
After the initial quaking event, three smaller aftershocks, with magnitudes of 4.1, 3.5 and 3.4, were recorded. The effects of the tremors could be felt in numerous districts of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Lamphun, as well as in parts of Nan and many areas in Bangkok. Northern regions such as Mae Hong Son felt the quake as did Udon Thani and Khon Kaen in the northeast.
Amorn Pimanmas, the head of the Thailand Structural Engineers Association (TSEA), made assurances that the quake was not of a high enough magnitude to destabilize or topple buildings in the north. The affected buildings were primarily of low-rise and medium-rise complexities. Structures in Bangkok, located approximately 1,000 kilometers from the quake epicenter, also experienced the tremors. However, their distance from the epicenter would ideally reduce the risk of any serious structural damage. Amorn cited a 2021 ministerial regulation stipulating clear parameters for earthquake-resistant building designs across 43 provinces nationwide.
Even as an absence of panic was advised, the head of TSEA emphasized the need for readiness for future seismic events of a potentially higher magnitude or closer proximity. They stressed the need for bolstering the structural integrity of edifices to withstand future earthquake situations, and that both new and existing buildings should be constructed or fortified bearing this in mind.
Suchatwee Suwansawat, a former president of the Council of Engineers, raised potential issues regarding Bangkok, home to at least 10,000 tall buildings. While applauding the 2021 regulations, they urged City Hall to inspect older structures built prior to 2021 and provide advice to owners about how best to strengthen their foundations as reported by the Bangkok Post.
Arun Pinta, the chief of disaster prevention and mitigation office in Chiang Mai, indicated that the tremor lasted for an approximate duration of five seconds, and was noticed by residents occupying high-rise buildings, or staff and patients housed in Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital. Prasan Sangwandet, the director of the Earthquake Observation Division, ascribed the earthquake to the shifting of the Kengtung fault in Myanmar’s Shan State. He remarked that Myanmar, being a seismic hotspot with a large number of faults, experiences earthquakes quite frequently. He also disclosed that numerous aftershocks were reported after the initial quake, and more could be expected to occur in the next one to two months.