Magnitude 6.4 quake hits Taiwan, causing buildings to collapse

TAIPEI - A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near the coastal city of Hualien in Taiwan late on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, causing buildings including a hotel to collapse and forcing the closure of a nearby highway.

The quake struck about 22 kms (14 miles) northeast of Hualien - which is home to about 100,000 people - shortly before midnight, and the epicenter was very shallow at just 1km, the USGS said.

There was no immediate confirmation of any deaths or injuries or word of any tsunami warning, but the government confirmed in the early hours of Wednesday that the Marshal Hotel in Hualien had collapsed, trapping three people inside.

Another building also collapsed in Hualien, it added, but did not say whether any people had been trapped there.

Four other buildings, including two hotels, also tilted during the earthquake in Hualien, a popular tourist destination on Taiwan's eastern coast, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of the capital, Taipei.

The government also confirmed that a military hospital had tilted during the earthquake.

The government said two bridges in the city were either cracked or could not be used.

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck nearby on Sunday.

"The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the 'disaster mechanism' and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work," President Tsai Ing-wen's office said in a statement.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory, is prone to earthquakes.

Some people in Taiwan are still scarred by a 1999 earthquake with 7.6 magnitude whose impact was felt across the island and in which more than 2,000 people died. More recently, an earthquake in 2016 in southern Taiwan left more than 100 dead.

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