A meteorologist at Taiwan's Central
Weather Bureau in Taipei points to a graph showing the tremors of an
earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale that rattled the island
December 26, 2006. [Reuters]
TAIPEI - A powerful earthquake
struck off southwestern Taiwan on Tuesday, triggering a tsunami warning on the
second anniversary of the waves that killed more than 200,000 in southern Asia.
Two hours later, seismologists lifted the warning, saying the threat of
destructive waves had passed.
reported two person were killed and 38 injured in the southern city of
Pingtung when their four-story home collapsed. Three other members of the family
were trapped in the rubble and firefighters were working to free them, the
One member of the family - an 89-year old man - escaped from the
building unharmed. Initial reports said all the people in the collapsed building
had been freed, but these turned out to be unfounded.
They added that many streets in the city were cracked and a major bridge was
damaged. Several fires broke out in the area, apparently caused by downed
electric power cables.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, which
hit at 8:26 p.m. (1226 GMT), registered magnitude 7.1, while Taiwan's Central
Weather Bureau measured it at 6.7. It was followed eight minutes later by an
aftershock registering 7.0, the USGS said.
Japan's Meteorological Bureau
said a one-meter (3.3-foot) tsunami might be headed toward the eastern coast of
the Philippines, but later lifted the warning."The expected waves did not
materialize ... the danger has passed," said Hiroshi Koide of the agency's
earthquake section. "We predicted a tsunami based on the depth and magnitude of
the earthquake. But ultimately, it appears no large tsunami was triggered."
According to China Seismological Bureau, two earthquakes -- the first
measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale and the second measuring 6.7 -- hit the South
China Sea on Tuesday. The epicenter was located at 21.9 degrees north latitude
and 120.6 degrees east longitude, about 350 kilometers from the Chinese mainland
and 15 kilometers from Taiwan.
Philippine police said coastal areas had
The warning underscored the higher level of caution about tsunami waves in
the region since a massive earthquake off Indonesia exactly two years earlier
triggered a powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people in a
Tuesday's quake was felt throughout Taiwan. It swayed
buildings and knocked objects off the shelves in the city of Taipei, in the
northern part of the island. Phone lines were cut in the southern cities of
Kaohsiung and Pingtung, possibly hindering reports of damage by residents, the
CTI Cable News reported. Several high-rise hotels swayed violently in Kaohsiung,
it said.Liao Ching-ling, a manager at Kaohsiung's Ambassador Hotel, said the
quake was the strongest she had ever felt.
"The building swayed so badly that many guests panicked and ran out of their
rooms and into the streets," she said.
The tremor was centered at sea about 23 kilometers (13 miles) southwest of
Hengchun on the southern tip of Taiwan, the bureau said. Hengchun is about 450
kilometers (260 miles) south of Taipei.Quakes frequently shake Taiwan, which is
part of the Pacific's "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines
encircling the Pacific Basin. Most are minor and cause little or no damage.
However, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in central Taiwan in September 1999 killed
more than 2,300 people.