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Strong 6.1-magnitude quake hits Taiwan

  • MRT security personnel closing the gate to a station in New Taipei City as precaution after the earthquake. Photo courtesy: AFP

Taipei (AFP) -- A 6.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Taiwan on Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, shaking buildings and disrupting traffic.

In the capital Taipei, highrises swayed while some panicked schoolchildren fled their classrooms in eastern Yilan county, according to reports.

The quake was felt across the island and a highway connecting Yilan and Hualien was shut down due to falling rocks, authorities said.

An official at the Hualien county fire department told AFP that two people, including a male Malaysian tourist, were injured by falling rocks and that the department was planning to send in medics by helicopter.

Taipei's metro system was temporarily closed for safety checks following the quake, officials said.

The quake struck at 1:01 pm (0501 GMT) at a depth of 19 kilometres (11.8 miles) in eastern Hualien county.

The central weather bureau also put its magnitude at 6.1. The USGS had earlier measured it as a 6.0 quake, but later revised it to 6.1.

"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.

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.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that people living near the coast could notice some effects on sea levels, but said there would be no tsunami, and "there is no concern about damage".

Hualien was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake last year that killed 17 people.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by quakes.

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

 

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