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Myanmar earthquake death toll up to 26

YANGON -- An earthquake struck near Myanmar's new capital of Naypyitaw on Tuesday, state television reported, but there were no immediate reports of damage, while the death toll from a weekend quake to its north rose to 26, according to an aid organization.

MRTV television said the new quake of 4.8 magnitude hit at 8:23 a.m. (0153 GMT). Its epicenter was about 35 miles (56 km) south of the capital.

“We in Naypyitaw are no strangers to tremors, but we rushed out of our hostel in panic this morning,” a Commerce Ministry official said, asking not to be named. She had not heard of any damage in or around the city.

Official news on Sunday's far larger earthquake near the central city of Mandalay was still sparse.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC), 26 people died as a result of that 6.8-magnitude quake and its aftershocks. Another 231 were injured and hundreds of buildings were damaged.

Initial reports from officials speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity had put the death toll at 11.

“It's difficult to be precise, with possible double-counting,” said Denis de Poerck, director of program operations for the Save the Children aid agency in Myanmar.

“It's not a major catastrophe, contrary to expectations on the first day,” he told Reuters.

Katherine Roux, spokeswoman for the IFRC in Southeast Asia, broadly shared that view.

“The Myanmar Red Cross has determined at this stage, at least as of last night, that there is no need for external support or funding right now,” she said. “It's under control, but there is ongoing assessment.”

A quasi-civilian government has opened up Myanmar, one of Asia's poorest countries, since taking over in March 2011 from the military, which had ruled for nearly 50 years.

The military regime was condemned by humanitarian agencies in 2008 for initially refusing international help to cope with Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 130,000 people.

President Barack Obama will become the first U.S. leader to visit Myanmar this month during a Nov. 17-20 tour of Southeast Asia that will also take in Thailand and Cambodia, his first international trip since he won re-election last week.

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People take refuge at a temporary shelter following Sunday's strong earthquake, in Kyaukmyaung township northwest of Mandalay, Myanmar on Monday, Nov. 12. The earthquake collapsed a bridge and damaged ancient Buddhist pagodas in northern Myanmar, and piecemeal reports from the underdeveloped mining region said mines collapsed and as many as 26 people were feared dead. (AP)

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