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6.1 - 6.3-earthquakes struck Bhutan

September 21, 2009

GDACS: Orange Earthquake Alert in Bhutan

On 9/21/2009 8:53:08 AM UTC an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 and depth 21km has struck an highly populated area in the Mongar Province (population: 0.1 million) in Bhutan. GDACS estimates the likelihood for need of international humanitarian intervention to be medium (Orange alert).

This earthquake can have a medium humanitarian impact since the affected region is highly populated and has high resilience for natural disasters.

The earthquake 177km from the city of Thimphu. The nearest populated places are Balfai (10km), Thebong (17km), Damoitsi (1km), Gong Thung (15km). It is a mountainous region with a maximum altitude of 6086 m.

Source: The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (

Earthquake Details
provided by Red Puma (ETH Zurich Switzerland)
21 Sep 2009 09:16:55.2
10 mb=4.9 M
21 Sep 2009 08:53:03.3
10 MS=6.3 M
21 Sep 2009 08:53:05.8
15 mb=5.9 M
21 Sep 2009 08:53:05.6
7 M =6.3 M
Earthquake Details provided by United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Magnitude 6.1
Date-Time * Monday, September 21, 2009 at 08:53:05 UTC
* Monday, September 21, 2009 at 02:53:05 PM at epicenter
Location 27.352°N, 91.424°E
Depth 10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program
Region BHUTAN Mongar - Trashigang
Distances 35 km (85 miles) NNW of Gauhati, Assam, India
180 km (110 miles) E of THIMPHU, Bhutan
615 km (380 miles) NNE of Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India
1410 km (870 miles) E of NEW DELHI, Delhi, India
Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 6.1 km (3.8 miles); depth fixed by location program
The M 6.3 (later downgraded by USGS to M 6.1) earthquake has killed at least 12 people and injured dozens. At least five people were killed in Mongar district, the epicentre of the quake, while the rest died killed in landslides in other remote areas, Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) reported. Houses, monasteries and roads have been damaged. Several aftershocks were felt in the region.

At least twelve people are confirmed killed in Mongar by the earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the richter scale (see: Richter and Mercalli Scales), which hit Bhutan around 3pm on September 21, 2009. Damages to properties including chortens and lhakhangs, are reported in eastern dzongkhags.

Thousands of people in the eastern dzongkhags spent the night out in the open after a powerful earthquake,which damaged homes, government offices, historical monuments, blocked roads and reportedly killed at least 12 people as of 9:30 pm.

The first tremor of the earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre in Mongar dzongkhag, was felt around 2:55 pm and "made the surrounding hills look like they were throwing up dust," according to Sangay Tenzin, who was driving along the Trashigang-Riju road. "The road was suddenly filled with boulders and mud," he said.About eight tremors were felt in villages of Mongar and Trashigang after the first tremor hit the region. "It wasn't only the magnitude on the Richter scale but also the intensity because, from what we know, the first tremor lasted for almost 5 seconds, which is very long," said Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley.

More than 4 dzongs - Trashigang, Lhuentse, old and new Trashiyangtse -36 chortens and 31 lhakhangs in the region have been damaged and most of the statues in these monuments have been destroyed.


5 in Mongar
Three women and a 2-year old boy in Narang gewog
One woman buried under debris at Kurichu

4 in Samdrup Jongkhar
Four Dantak labourers (three women and one man)

3 in Trashigang
Two men in Yangneer gewog
7-year old boy in Jomtshang, Udzorong

Major damages:

- more than 50 houses, 12 chortens, 7 lhakhangs and 3 gup offices in Mongar
- more than 50 houses, 19 chortens, 7 lhakhangs and 3 gup offices in Trashigang
- severe cracks on Trashigang dzong
- major damage to Lhuentse dzong
- Sertho of Trongsa dzong tilted
- road blocks in many parts of Trashigang
- major damage to Yongla Goenpa, Pemagatsel
- cracks on and damage to Drametse lhakhang
- damages to Samtenling school in Khotakha, Wangduephodrang
- more than 4 school buildings partially damaged in Mongar

More than 1,100 homes have been damaged in the six eastern dzongkhags, according to government officials.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2009
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