At least five people were killed and more than 200 others injured in a strong earthquake measuring 6.8 on Richter scale that rocked areas around Taipei Sunday afternoon, reports from Taiwan said.
Several buildings collapsed, people took to the streets, and telecom and power services broke down in some areas. It was reported that a building at the intersection of Taipei's Nanking E.Road and Chilin Road collapsed in the tremors, television showed.
A tower crane being used to construct a skyscraper smashed to the ground, killing one person and hitting a number of vehicles. A five-storey apartment building in central Taipei collapsed, with five people trapped under the rubbles.
The earthquake, which reportedly lasted for a whole minute and could be felt islandwide, also caused office buildings in Taipei to sway for a few minutes and the city's mass rapid transit rail was suspended for safety.
The epicenter was located in the sea at a depth of 9.6 kilometers and 44.3 kilometers east of the Hsiulin seismic center in the eastern Taiwan county of Hualien, local weather bureau said.
However, according to the China Seismological Bureau, the earthquake was measured at 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Tremors hit the island province of Taiwan frequently, since the island lies on a seismically active stretch of the Pacific basin. A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in September 1999 killed 2,378 people and destroyed more than 40,000 homes.
ARATS Sends Condolences
The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) sent a message of condolences to the Taiwan-based Straits Exchanges Foundation Sunday, expressing sympathy to the victims of the earthquake.
The ARATS also expressed sincere hope that people in the earthquake-stricken region would quickly recover from the disaster.
In a related development, the Red Cross Society of China also expressed condolences through the Taiwan Red Cross (TRC) to the victims, and is staying in close touch with the TRC concerning relief measures.
Chronicle of Major Earthquakes Hitting Taiwan
Taiwan is located on a seismically active stretch of the Pacific basin and tremors occur frequently. The tremor rocking the island in September 21, 1999, is said to be the deadliest since a 7.4-magnitude quake hit it in 1935, killing 3,276 people.
The following are major earthquakes hitting the island provinceof Taiwan since 1997:
-- January 19, 1997: an earthquake measuring 5.2 magnitude on Richter Scale hit an area northeast of Ilan in Taiwan.
-- July 17, 1998: a strong earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale hit the central part of Taiwan.
-- November 18, 1998: an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale hit Taitung County of Taiwan province.
-- September 21, 1999: a strong earthquake measuring 7.6 on theRichter scale hit Taiwan, killing 2,400.
-- February 16, 2000: an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale hit Chiayi County of Taiwan.
-- May 17, 2000: an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale jolted Nantou in central Taiwan.
-- June 14, 2001: an earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale jolted the sea area to the east of Taiwan's Suao.
-- December 18, 2001: a strong earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale jolted northern and eastern Taiwan.
-- March 31, 2002: an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan.