Taiwan earthquake: Series of powerful aftershocks hit Hualien

Aftershocks continue to rattle Taiwan after a strong earthquake that killed at least two people and injured more than 200 others.

Taiwan, strong earthquake, aftershocks

Several high-rise buildings sustained severe damage, with this one tilting heavily -- Photo: EPA

The powerful 6.4-magnitude tremor struck at 23:50 (15:50 GMT) about 20km (12 miles) off the island's east coast.

Residents in the city of Hualien have been told to stay away from their damaged homes, and about 800 have taken shelter in community buildings.

Hualien, a popular tourist hub, is home to about 100,000 people.

Images from the city showed tilted structures, scattered debris and extensive damage to roads in the area. Among the several badly damaged buildings was a hospital, local media said.

Emergency responders, including soldiers, worked through the night, rescuing about 150 people from damaged buildings, but powerful aftershocks have disrupted rescue efforts.

Taiwan, strong earthquake, aftershocks

The lower floors of the 270-room Marshal Hotel have collapsed, trapping people -- Photo: KULAS_TW

The lower basement and ground floor of the 10-storey Marshal Hotel gave way after the quake. One member of staff has been rescued, but another two are said to be still be trapped in the building.

"We know there are people who are trapped inside - we can see lights inside the hotel," eyewitness Zeena Starbuck told the BBC.

"People with phones are shining their lights to let people know they're there."

People in the city are on edge and have been left shaken, correspondents say, as the earthquake comes exactly two years after a previous quake in the Taiwanese city of Tainan that killed at least 116 people.

'As fast as they can'

At least two other people are known to be trapped in residential properties, officials say. About 40,000 homes are without water, and highways and bridges have been closed.

Offices and schools in the city will remain closed on Wednesday.

President Tsai Ing-wen travelled to Hualien early on Wednesday.

"The government team has now been mobilised and will work on disaster relief as fast as they can," said a statement from her office.

Taiwan, strong earthquake, aftershocks

Rescue services are continuing the search for people in a damaged building in Hualien -- Photo: EPA

People reported feeling the quake in the island's capital, Taipei, more than 160km (100 miles) away.

Taiwan has been rocked by more than 100 earthquakes so far this month, according to the government. The island sits near a junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

Taiwan has for all practical purposes been independent since 1950, but China regards it as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland.

Source: BBC

Taiwan, strong earthquake, aftershocks