Two people died, 21 were injured and one remains missing after the nation was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake yesterday afternoon that was also felt more than 700km away in Hong Kong.
As of 6pm, hundreds of tourists and residents were still stranded in the Ladder Scenic Area (天梯遊樂區) in Nantou County as roads were blocked by landslides caused by the quake.
The National Fire Agency said that one of the victims was a mountain climber, who was killed by falling rocks on Alishan (阿里山).
In Chiayi County, a woman driving a car was struck by falling rocks and lost consciousness, the fire agency said.
She was taken to the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital in Dalin Township (大林), the agency said.
Another serious injury occurred in Nantou County’s Jhushan Township (竹山) as a result of falling rocks, it added.
The individual was rescued at about 3pm by a National Airborne Service Corps helicopter and taken to a nearby hospital, the agency said.
The agency told reporters that four helicopters had been sent to scout the area near the epicenter as authorities awaited further information.
Both severe and minor injuries were reported in Shueili (水里), Lugu (鹿谷) and Yuchih (魚池) townships in Nantou County, the agency said.
Meanwhile, the earthquake caused massive landslides in mountainous areas in central parts of the country, forcing the highway authority to close some of the nation’s highways.
Train operations were also disrupted by the earthquake, affecting approximately 20,200 passengers of the Taiwan Railway Administration and 50,000 High-Speed Rail passengers.
Several houses in Nantou were damaged by the temblor.
Lu Pei-ling (呂佩玲), deputy director of the Central Weather Bureau’s seismology center, said that the epicenter of the earthquake, which occurred at 1:43pm, was 32km east of the Nantou County Government building.
The epicenter of the quake was in the administrative area of the county’s Renai Township (仁愛), she said.
“Because the epicenter was only 10km below the Earth’s surface at the center of Taiwan, the earthquake was felt nearly everywhere,” she added.
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck in the same area on March 27, with its epicenter 36.9km east of Nantou County Government building.
The epicenter was 19.4km below the surface.
Lu said yesterday’s earthquake may have been an aftershock of the magnitude 7.3 921 Earthquake in 1999.
“The 921 Earthquake was the strongest earthquake in Taiwan in the past 100 years,” Lu said. “A magnitude 7.3 earthquake can cause many aftershocks, which creates tremendous stress beneath the surface of the Earth in Nantou. We believe that both the earthquake in March and the one yesterday were part of the readjustment of the stress caused by the 921 Earthquake.”
Five aftershocks occurred between 1:59pm and 6:16pm, with magnitudes ranging between 3.1 and 4.6.
Kuo Kai-wen (郭鎧紋), director of the seismology center, said that both the magnitude 6.2 quake in March and yesterday’s quake occurred in a blind thrust fault.
Meanwhile, an earthquake jolted the southern Philippines late on Saturday, injuring at least 33 people and damaging more than 140 houses.
The magnitude 5.7 quake rattled North Cotabato Province and nearby areas as people slept, damaging more than 140 houses and several school buildings, and setting off a landslide that partially blocked a road with boulders, officials said.