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At least 23 aftershocks hit Thailand's Chiang Mai
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-12-14 13:28
A quake, with a magnitude of 5.1, hit Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province shortly after midnight on Wednesday, damaging college buildings and sending residents fleeing from their houses, but no injuries were reported.

At least 23 aftershocks occurred, the latest at 5 a.m. (2200 GMT Tuesday) Wednesday morning, which earthquake experts said was quite unusual. Government officials and earth science experts are investigating why there were so many aftershocks because normally,only one or two aftershocks follow the moderate earthquake.

This is the first earthquake that was centered in Chiang Mai, said Director-general of Thailand's Meteorological Department Suparerk Tansriratanawong, as tremors here are usually weaker effects from earthquakes in neighboring Myanmar.

The quake has center in Mae Rim district, just outside the cityof Chiang Mai, about two minutes after midnight, and the earthquake could be felt in nearly all parts of the province, the national meteorological center said in a statement.

National Disaster Warning Center Director Smith Thammasaroj said the earthquake occurred on a fault line and that its center was 30 kilometers beneath the surface of the earth.

The disaster director also said residents need not evacuate their homes or business places now, but from now on, the public should brace for a possible earthquake which could take place at any time.

However, the quake damaged at least five dormitory buildings at Maejo agriculture University, in Mae Rim, and sent panicked students and faculty into the streets.

More than 2,000 students were temporarily evacuated from their dorms. Series of aftershocks hit the areas in the morning.

Meanwhile rescue teams were sent to Mae Kuang Udom Thara Dam inthe province's Doi Saket district in the morning out of fear that the quake will cause cracks. However, Prachon Pratchayasakul, a rescue team chief, said that initial investigation found that the quake did not cause cracks or damages at the dam.

Officials from Natural Resource department will conduct detail checks at the dam in the afternoon.

The quake, however, caused cracks at the first and fifth floors of the male dormitory of the Maejo University in Sansai district. The cracks could easily be seen.

A university source said engineers were sent to examine whether the quake had direct impacts on the buildings' structures or not. Theerachai Tanruangporn, one of the engineers, said the minor cracks were unlikely to cause structural damage to the buildings, but said that his team are conducting more thorough inspections.

In Chiang Mai City, around 50 Thai and foreign tourists staying at high-rise hotels such as Imperial Rim Ping and Lotus Pang Suan Kaew hotels fled their rooms and rushed to the ground, causing chaos for a short time.

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