Strong quake hits Taiwan's Hualien, shakes buildings in Taipei

Strong quake hits Taiwan's Hualien, shakes buildings in Taipei

Taiwan quake cracks on road
A major road in the centre of Taipei after an earthquake on Apr 18, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

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 temporarily halting subway services in the capital Taipei.

Seventeen people were injured.

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. The Malaysian man was rushed to hospital in critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest, a leg fracture and head injuries, said the National Fire Agency.

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

Taipei's metro system was closed for over an hour for safety checks following the quake, while the Taiwan Railway Administration also suspended some of some of its services in the east coast for several hours, officials said.

Taiwan quake train station
A member of security from the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) closes the gate to a station in New Taipei City as a precaution after an earthquake hit Taiwan's Hualien city on Apr 18, 2019. (Photo: AFP / SAM YEH)

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.

Taiwan earthquake Apr 18, 2019
A Reuters witness said the quake shook buildings in the capital, Taipei. (Image: United States Geological Survey)

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.

Source: CNA/Agencies/hs(hm/gs)