5.9-magnitude quake jolts Taiwan

TAIPEI (AFP) - A 5.9-magnitude earthquake jolted Taiwan on Wednesday and shook buildings in the capital, the Seismology Centre said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The quake struck at 8:21 am local time with its epicentre 33.3km southwest of the eastern city of Hualien, at a depth of 18km, the centre said.

Three children were slightly injured by falling ceiling material during a singing lesson at a school in the southern city of Tainan, education ministry officials said.  

The quake, compounded by heavy rain for several days, also triggered landslides which disrupted traffic on four highways in mountainous areas.  

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 5.6, with its epicentre at a depth of 11km.  

Residents on many parts of the island felt the quake, which was followed by two major aftershocks of more than 3.0 magnitude, the Taiwan seismology centre said.  

The island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by tremors.  A strong 6.3-magnitude quake which hit central Taiwan in June last year killed four people and caused widespread landslides.  A 7.6-magnitude quake struck the island in Sept 1999 and killed around 2,400 people.