Fifteen earthquakes had since Tuesday been detected in Hualien County’s Shoufong Township (壽豐), the Central Weather Bureau said yesterday, adding that more aftershocks could occur in the next seven days.
Seismology Center Director Chen Kuo-chang (陳國昌) said that the main earthquake occurred at 7:24pm on Wednesday.
It had a magnitude of 5.4, and its epicenter was 10km southwest of Hualien County Hall, he added.
Photo courtesy of the Hualien County Fire Department via CNA
After the main earthquake, the center recorded 12 aftershocks from Wednesday evening to yesterday morning, including a magnitude 5.4 aftershock at 6:11am yesterday, Chen said.
Two foreshocks were recorded: A magnitude 4.5 tremor at 6:26pm on Tuesday and a magnitude 4.2 tremor at 3:21am on Wednesday, he said.
Two of the 15 earthquakes recorded over the past three days had a magnitude above 5, five had a magnitude between 4 and 5, and eight had a magnitude between 3 and 4, Chen said.
More aftershocks might occur in the next seven days, he added.
As the strongest aftershock reached about the same magnitude as the series’ main earthquake, Chen said that the center is assessing whether both quakes should be recorded as the series’ main earthquake.
Shoufong is in a geologically fragmented area where the Philippine Sea Plate collides with the Euroasian Plate, Chen said, adding that the oceanic plate subducts northward under the continental plate.
Although the center frequently records tremors in Shoufong, Chen said that large earthquakes occur rarely in the township, with the largest in the past 48 years being a magnitude 6.5 earthquake in 1990.
Since 1973, 22 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or larger occurred in Shoufong, including the two this week, Chen said.
“Seismic energy is unlikely to accumulate in such a geologically fragmented zone,” he said. “The risk that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or larger occurs is very low.”
No damage was reported from this week’s earthquakes, Chen said.
However, frequent earthquakes could loosen rocks and soil in the area, which increases the risk of mudflows or landslides during typhoons or rainstorms, he added.
A similar series of 15 earthquakes occurred in the same area last month, Chen said, adding that the series’ main earthquake on June 11 had a magnitude of 5.4.
It was preceded by three foreshocks on June 10 and 11, with one of them reaching a magnitude of 5.1, Chen said.
Ten tremors were recorded on June 11 alone, followed by two on June 12 and three in the following days, on June 13, 14 and 18, he said.
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