Powerful quake hits south Taiwan, injuring 64

08:17, March 05, 2010      

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Smoke rises above a textile factory in Tainan.

A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Taiwan early Thursday, terrifying residents, disrupting communications and triggering at least one large fire.

Sixty-four people were injured in the chaos, the Associated Press reported quoting local emergency department sources.

No tsunami alert was issued. The quake was centered in the same mountainous region of rural Kaosiung county that endured the brunt of the damage from Typhoon Morakot, a devastating storm that killed about 700 people last August.

Taiwanese actor Chu Chung-heng said he and other passengers were close to panic when the high-speed train on which they were traveling was dislodged from its track by the quake.

"Many people in my car were screaming," he said. "I was so scared that I couldn't make a sound. The train shook very hard, and I thought it was going to overturn."

Rail service in southern and central Taiwan was suspended, as was the subway system in Kaohsiung city, Taiwan's second largest city with a population of 1.5 million.

In nearby Tainan, a fire broke out in a textile factory shortly after the quake hit, sending huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the air. Power outages struck Taipei and at least one county to the south, and telephone service in many parts of Taiwan was spotty.

Kuo Kai-wen, director of Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau's Seismology Center, said the quake was not geologically related to the massive temblor that hit Chile, in other side of the Pacific, last Saturday, but its intensity was unusual for the area.

"This is the biggest quake to hit this region in more than a century," he said.

The quake's epicenter was near the town of Jiashian, especially hard hit by last year's typhoon. A Kaohsiung county official said that some temporary housing built for typhoon survivors collapsed in the shaking.

The fire agency said 64 people had been injured.

A spokesman for Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said authorities had been instructed to follow the quake situation closely and take steps to mitigate damage. Ma was widely criticized for his government's slow response to last August's typhoon.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan but most are minor and cause little or no damage. However, a 7.6-magnitude temblor in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

People's Daily Online / Agencies
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