Taiwan hit by 6.1-magnitude quake; no deaths reported

The damage in a university washroom in Taipei after an earthquake struck Taiwan's coastal city of Hualien yesterday.
The damage in a university washroom in Taipei after an earthquake struck Taiwan's coastal city of Hualien yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI • A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan's coastal city of Hualien yesterday, shaking buildings and temporarily halting subway services in the capital Taipei, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or fatalities.

Television footage showed schoolchildren being evacuated from buildings following the largest quake to hit the heavily industrialised island this year, a weather bureau official said. A hundred people were evacuated from a building in Taipei City.

An official at the Hualien county fire department said two people were injured by falling rocks. The National Fire Agency said one of them, a Malaysian male tourist, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest, a leg fracture and head injuries.

The agency added that there were also 15 injuries reported around Taipei and that two buildings in the city were temporarily evacuated due to structural damage.

While small-scale power cuts were reported in some districts in Taipei, the Central News Agency said, oil refinery plants and services were operating as normal, according to the government.

It set up a disaster reaction centre after the quake, which hit at a depth of 18km, according to the weather bureau. Aftershocks with a magnitude of more than 5 were possible in the coming days, the bureau said.

"The tremor could be felt for 33 seconds, which is considered quite long. It could be felt all over Taiwan and it's the first quake above a magnitude of 6 this year," said Mr Chen Kuo-chang, director of the bureau's seismological centre.

Social media users posted photos of the glasses at a restaurant being shattered by the quake and of the exterior tiles of a department store building falling.

"I live on the 21st floor. The building swayed so much that I was almost scared to death," one user posted.

President Tsai Ing-wen said high-speed rail services in northern Taiwan, between Taipei and the neighbouring city of Taoyuan, had been temporarily suspended.

On her official Facebook page, Ms Tsai said she asked officials "to gather information from everywhere to check whether there's any damage and, if so, to react as soon as possible".

The United States Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 6.4, adding that it struck at a depth of 15km from Hualien.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes.

Hualien, a scenic tourist hot spot, was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake last year that killed 17 people and injured nearly 300 people.

The island's worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwan hit by 6.1-magnitude quake; no deaths reported'. Print Edition | Subscribe