TAIPEI: An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 struck Taiwan’s coastal city of Hualien on Thursday (Apr 18), said Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau, shaking buildings and and temporarily halting subway services in the capital Taipei.
The quake struck at about 1pm in eastern Hualien, at a depth of about 19km. A weather bureau official said it is the largest quake to hit the island so far this year.
In Taipei, buildings swayed violently while some panicked school children fled their classrooms in eastern Yilan county, according to reports.
Two people, including a Malaysian tourist, were injured by falling rocks in Hualien, an official at the county fire department told AFP, adding that the department was planning to send in medics by helicopter.
President Tsai Ing-wen said high-speed rail service in northern Taiwan, between Taipei and the neighbouring city of Taoyuan, has been temporarily suspended.
On her official Facebook page, 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”.
Local media said the quake was felt all over the island, and a highway connecting Yilan and Hualien was shut due to falling rocks.
“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 6.0 magnitude this year,” said Chen Kuo-chang, director of the bureau’s seismological centre.
There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.
The US Geological Survey earlier put the quake’s magnitude at 6.4, but revised it to 6.0.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that people living near the coast may notice some effects on sea levels, but said there would be no tsunami.
“Due to this earthquake, Japan’s coastal areas may observe slight changes on the oceanic surface, but there is no concern about damage,” the agency said.
There have been several aftershocks following Thursday’s 6.1 temblor, and Taiwan’s weather bureau warned that aftershocks of more than 5.0 in magnitude are possible in the coming days.
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.
Hualien, on Taiwan’s picturesque east coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the quake-prone island.
Last February, a 6-4-magnitude earthquake which struck Hualien killed 17 people. Many of the victims were in a building which partially collapsed.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.
More than 100 people were killed in an earthquake in the island’s south in 2016. Its worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.
This story is developing. Please refresh for updates.