A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near the coastal city of Hualien in Taiwan late on 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 (14 miles) northeast of Hualien shortly before midnight, and the epicenter was very shallow at just 1km, the USGS said.
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A number of aftershocks hit the area, but there was no word of any tsunami warning.
A strong & shallow earthquake struck off Taiwan's east coast
The quake toppled buildings in Hualien, leaving civilians trapped inside. This video shows the badly damaged Marshal Hotel
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“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.
Four other buildings, including two hotels and a military hospital, also tilted during the quake in Hualien, which is located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) 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.
More than 100 were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 1999 earthquake with 7.6 magnitude whose impact was felt across the island and in which more than 2,000 people died.