February 14, 2006

Moderate quake shakes east India, kills 2 soldiers

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Two Indian soldiers were killed on
Tuesday when their vehicle was crushed by falling boulders
after a moderate earthquake struck an eastern mountain state
and triggered landslides, authorities said.

The tremors, which were also felt across the border in
northern Bangladesh, sent people running from their homes in
the region, witnesses said, and cracks were reported in some

"The soldiers were killed when big boulders rolled down a
hill top onto the vehicle in which they were traveling,"
Ravindra Telang, administrator of East Sikkim district, told
Reuters by phone.

The incident took place at Cheratahang, 40 km (25 miles)
northeast of Gangtok, capital of Sikkim state where the
5.7-magnitude earthquake was centered.

"Many buildings have been damaged and we have evacuated
five families from some vulnerable buildings," Telang said. "We
are now counting the other damaged buildings across the

An India Meteorological Department official said the
epicenter was 1,120 km (700 miles) north of the eastern city of
Kolkata and the earthquake occurred at 6:25 a.m (0055 GMT).

Sikkim legislator Norzang Lepcha told Reuters from Gangtok
that boulders that rolled down the hills had blocked roads.

Remote Sikkim has a population of more than 550,000. It is
one of India's smallest states and known for its scenic
Himalayan landscape.

People in the northern part of West Bengal state also felt
the earthquake. "Lots of people panicked and ran out of their
homes. But I have not heard of casualties," journalist Niraj
Lama said from the hill town of Darjeeling.