Magnitude 6.1 earthquake hits east Taiwan, no major damage

Quake also shook buildings in the capital, Taipei, forcing the metro system in the capital to be suspended.

    Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
    Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

    A magnitude 6.1 earthquake has struck Taiwan's coastal city of Hualien, shaking buildings and temporarily suspending subway services in the capital Taipei, causing minor damage and injuries.

    Local television footage showed school children being evacuated from buildings, while a weather bureau official said Thursday's quake was the largest to hit the island so far this year.

    It struck at 1:01pm local time (05:01 GMT) at a depth of nearly 19km.

    It was centred northwest of the city of Hualien on the country's east coast, said Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.

    Water pipes at Hualien's train station burst and rail traffic was briefly suspended. 

    Two hikers in the Taroko Gorge national park, including one from Malaysia, were injured by falling rocks, the Hualien government reported.

    The tremors were felt in the capital Taipei, about 115km from the epicentre, where officials shut down the metro for just over an hour for safety checks.  

    The National Fire Agency reported 15 injuries around Taipei and that two buildings were temporarily evacuated due to structural damage. 

    Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes. More than 100 people were killed in an earthquake in the island's south in 2016, and in 1999, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed more than 2,000 people. 

    "We felt the quake move the building vertically and that's more serious than normal," Georgia Kao, a Taipei resident, told Al Jazeera.

    "I felt very scared. It reminded me of the 1999 earthquake. The building moved up and down and then right to left. The first thing I did was to open my door and grab both my daughters. Luckily, it didn't last very long."

    The United States Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.4.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that people living near the coast could notice some effects on sea levels, but said there would be no tsunami.

    "Due to this earthquake, Japan's coastal areas may observe slight changes on the oceanic surface, but there is no concern about damage," the agency said.

    Hualien was hit by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake last year that killed 17 people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies