About 100 Taiwanese and mainlanders have swum across a narrow strait dividing the Taiwanese island of Quemoy and the Fujian port of Xiamen in a historic event that is a further sign of warming cross-strait ties. The cross-strait swimming challenge, held yesterday, was made possible after Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the island's top mainland-policy-planning body, agreed to the event and Taiwan's military removed anti-tank and anti-landing-craft barricades deployed along about 350 metres of the coast at Shuangkou on Lesser Quemoy - where the swim ended. Escorted by about 50 lifeguards and canoes, jet skis and boats, the 48 swimmers from Taiwan and 49 from the mainland set off from the beach and finished the 7.1-kilometre 'Quemoy-Xiamen Crossing' in two hours and 10 minutes. Among the swimmers were students, teachers, athletes and businessmen. The mainland swimmers included policemen, according to the Quemoy county government, which co-organised the event with its Xiamen counterpart. 'Swimming across the sea to Quemoy was not difficult at all,' said Li Yenhan, 22, from Tianjin , who was the first mainlander ashore. 'There were some sea currents near Binlang islet [held by Taiwan], but after that it was an easy swim.' A member of the Tianjin Swimming Centre, Mr Li finished the course in 70 minutes, while 25-year-old tennis coach Chien Chun-che took 90 minutes. He was the first Taiwanese swimmer to finish. 'It was challenging, but great,' said Mr Chien, who coached Taiwanese players during the World Games in Taiwan last month. Before the swimmers took the plunge, there was an opening ceremony hosted by the heads of the Quemoy and Xiamen governments. A lion dance and welcoming ceremony greeted the swimmers when they arrived in Shuangkou. Organiser Lee Juh-feng, a Quemoy county magistrate, said: 'This is a historic moment which indicates that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are taking a further step towards peace. 'After 60 years of hostility, the two sides have come to realise the importance of peaceful development, and we hope there will be many more exchanges between Quemoy and Xiamen.' There would be many more swims in the future. 'The next one will start in Xiamen next year, and possibly the event could be held twice a year, signifying closer relationships between the two areas and between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.' Asked if the government would put back the barriers in Quemoy, a former defence outpost, Mr Lee said he hoped not. But the defence ministry said the barriers would have to go back up. Mr Lee said with relations between Taiwan and the mainland warming since Ma Ying-jeou won a presidential election in Taiwan in March last year, it was time to end rivalry and military conflict so that Quemoy would no longer be an island battlefield. The mainland fired more than 470,000 shells at Quemoy over 44 days in 1958, killing 618 people, in an attempt to take over the small group of islets, the closest of which is just two kilometres from Xiamen.