Nearly 8,000 train passengers were delayed after a magnitude 6 earthquake struck Hualien County at 9:05am yesterday.
The Taiwan Railways Administration said the earthquake delayed 6,196 passengers on 31 trains, and about 1,700 passengers on the Taoyuan International Airport MRT Line.
No casualties had been reported as of press time last night, but televised footage showed business owners in Hualien County’s Guangfu Township (光復) cleaning up damaged goods and broken glass.
Photo courtesy of Taoyuan Metro Corp
Footage from a surveillance camera at Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭), a tourist destination on the east coast, showed that the quake caused the lake to shake vertically.
The quake’s epicenter was 37.7km southwest of Hualien County Hall at a depth of 6.8km, in Guangfu Township, Central Weather Bureau data showed.
Earthquakes with a focal depth of up to 30km are defined as “very shallow.”
The largest intensity generated by the temblor, which was felt nationwide, measured 5 on Taiwan’s seven-tier intensity scale in Guangfu Township, the bureau said, adding that the intensity measured 4 in Nantou, Taitung and Hualien counties.
As of 3:07pm, the bureau’s Seismological Center had recorded 11 aftershocks: one magnitude 5, five magnitude 4 and another five magnitude 3.
Yesterday’s quake was the sixth one this year of magnitude 6, Seismological Center Director Chen Kuo-chang (陳國昌) said.
“We estimate that aftershocks of magnitude 5 or greater could happen in the next two days. In the next seven days, people should also watch out for aftershocks of magnitude 4 to 5,” Chen said.
Aftershocks smaller than magnitude 4 could occur over the next 30 days, he added.
The bureau has yet to determine the cause of the land earthquake, which occurred on the west side of the East Rift Valley stretching from Hualien County to Taitung County, Chen said.
“The rift valley itself is a large fault, but it also contains a junction of the tectonic plates and many small faults. The epicenter was on top of the fault in Guangfu. Because it was a very shallow earthquake, we cannot be certain that it was related to the movement of the fault. There is a Central Geological Survey investigation pending,” he said.
The epicenter was not in a region prone to earthquakes greater than magnitude 6, Chen said.
There was magnitude 6.09 quake in 2009, he said, citing bureau records since 1990.
Over the past 32 years, the bureau has recorded 14 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater in the region, four of which were deep earthquakes, Chen said, adding that yesterday’s earthquake was the shallowest.
Each year, Taiwan has an average of two to three earthquakes that are magnitude 6 or greater, Chen said, adding that the number of magnitude 6 earthquakes this year is already twice the annual average.
Three of this year’s six earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater occurred on March 23, Chen said.
Yesterday’s earthquake was not related to those on March 23, he said.
The highest number of earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater was recorded in 1999, when the nation was devastated by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake on Sept. 21.
That quake triggered 13 aftershocks of magnitude 6, Chen said.
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