Strong quake rocks centre of Taiwan, is felt in Fujian

6.1 magnitude earthquake strikes Nantou county, leaving 1 dead, 86 hurt; children in Fuzhou on the mainland are evacuated from school buildings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 5:48am

A strong earthquake rocked central Taiwan yesterday, killing at least one person and injuring 86 others as shockwaves damaged buildings and sent panicked residents rushing for shelter.

The magnitude 6.1 quake struck at 10am in mountainous Nantou county in the centre of the island, at a depth of 15 kilometres, according to the seismology centre of Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.

"It was the strongest earthquake so far this year with the shockwave nearly equivalent to that from an atomic bomb," said centre director Kuo Chi-wen.

He said the quake did not take place in the same layer as a devastating earthquake that shook the same county on September 21, 1999, and killed 2,400 people.

Yesterday's quake could be felt throughout the island, with buildings swaying in Taipei. It damaged a number of schools, homes, temples and roads in central Taiwan, especially in Nantou, emergency task force officials said.

The earthquake was also felt across the strait in Fujian province , where a number of residents saw high-rise buildings sway, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported. Pupils at a high school in Fuzhou , the provincial capital, were evacuated to a playing field.

The Taipei-based TVBS cable news network reported that the quake was also felt in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

A 72-year-old woman died in Nantou when she was crushed under a temple wall that crumbled during the quake, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said.

At least 86 other people were injured by falling objects, ceiling fragments, partially collapsed structures and rocks that struck cars on mountain roads, an agency spokesman said.

Two blazes were also reported but were both extinguished in less than an hour.

Several universities in central Taiwan suspended classes after bookshelves and cabinets were toppled in libraries and classrooms. Television reports showed dozens of schoolchildren crying and rushing out of their classroom in Nantou during the quake.

Other footage showed hundreds of bottles of wine lying shattered on the floor of a supermarket in Taichung.

"It was very scary, and I didn't know where to run for shelter," a mainland tourist told a Taiwan television reporter at the scenic town of Sun Moon Lake.

More than 60 regular and high-speed train services were suspended or postponed because of the quake.

Landslides were reported in mountainous areas, and weather forecasters warned local residents that more could follow as more rain was expected in the next few days.

More than five aftershocks ranging from magnitude 3.7 to 4.3 were recorded, plus dozens of smaller ones, officials from the seismology centre said.