Earthquake strikes city of Hualien in Taiwan, buildings collapse

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A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near the coastal city of Hualien in Taiwan late Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, killing at least two people and causing several buildings to collapse.

The quake struck about 22 km northeast of Hualien shortly before midnight, and the epicentre was very shallow at just 1,000 metres, the USGS said.

“Two people were unfortunately killed, and 114 have suffered light or severe injuries,” Taiwan’s Premier William Lai told an emergency government meeting.

A number of aftershocks hit the area, but there was no word of any tsunami warning.

Taiwan earthquake

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck 21 kilometres north-northeast of Hualien, Taiwan, at a depth of 9.5 kilometres. (USGS)

Hualien is a popular tourist destination on Taiwan’s eastern coast and home to about 100,000 people.

“The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the ‘disaster mechanism’ and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work,” President Tsai Ing-wen’s office said in a statement.

Lai said the government was urgently repairing a major highway damaged by the quake. He said the government would provide further updates on the situation later on Wednesday morning.

Among the buildings toppled in the quake was the Marshal Hotel in Hualien, where three people were trapped inside, the government said.

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Rescue workers search through rubble outside the Marshal Hotel in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, early Tuesday, after a strong earthquake struck the island. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Four other buildings, including two hotels and a military hospital, also tilted during the quake in Hualien, which is located about 120 km south of the capital, Taipei.

The government said two bridges in the city were either cracked or could not be used due to the quake.

On Sunday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck nearby.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory, is prone to earthquakes.

Some people in Taiwan are still scarred by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 1999 whose impact was felt across the island and in which more than 2,000 people died. More recently, an earthquake on Feb. 6, 2016 in southern Taiwan left more than 100 dead.

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