Shallow quake topples buildings

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The Marshal Hotel in Hualien, Taiwan, in this picture grab obtained from social media video. PICTURE: Reuters

Taipei
A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck just to the north-east of the city of Hualien in Taiwan early today, killing two hotel employees and injuring 144 other people, officials said.
The quake also forced the closure of a nearby highway, the government said.
The Central News Agency reported that the ground floor of the four-star Marshal Hotel, a building in Hualien district, had caved in and people were believed to be trapped inside.
Taiwanese media reported that a separate hotel known as the Beautiful Life Hotel was tilting. The agency also posted photos showing a road fractured in several parts.
The quake struck about 22km north-east of the city shortly before midnight, and the epicentre was very shallow at just 1km, the United States Geological Survey said.
“Two people were unfortunately killed, and 114 have suffered light or severe injuries,” Taiwan’s Premier William Lai told an emergency government meeting. At least 30 people are believed to be trapped in the hotel in the east coast port city.
An official from the Ministry of Interior’s fire station division said by phone that people were trapped in the buildings in Hualien.
The government said a bridge in the city on Taiwan’s eastern coast could not be used.
The quake struck at 11.50pm local time (4.50am NZT), 22km east-north-east of Hualien at a depth of 1km, the Geological Survey said.
The BBC reported local media as saying other buildings had toppled in Hualien. Hualien is a popular tourist destination on Taiwan’s eastern coast and home to about 100,000 people.
A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck nearby on Sunday.
“The president (Tsai Ing-wen) has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the disaster mechanism and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work,” the president’s office said after the earthquake.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.The island’s worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed about 2400 people. Reuters