Two people were killed and more than 200 injured when two earthquakes struck Taiwan as buildings and hotels collapsed, trapping many people inside including tourists.
The deaths were reported after a hotel in Hualien collapsed following the 6.4-magnitude tremor, which hit 13 miles north-east of the city and at a depth of 5.9 miles, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).The quake struck shortly before midnight local time.
A second earthquake, of magnitude 5.2, hit not far from the one that also caused significant destruction a few hours earlier. The USGS said it had hit at a depth of 4.2 miles.
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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: Straitstime </span>
Those tremors followed a magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck on Sunday.
Images posted on social media show pillars holding up the Marshal Hotel in Gongyuan Road, Hualien, had collapsed, bringing the higher floors of the building onto street level.
A separate hotel known as the Beautiful Life Hotel was also shown tilting.
Many of the island’s residents fled to the streets of Hualien county in panic and chaos after several buildings, including a hotel gave in to the shock.
Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency said that many tourists are among those trapped in the Marshal Hotel. Taiwan is a popular tourist destination, especially across neighboring Asian countries.
One student who happened to be passing by the hotel when the quake struck said the structure was tilted to “45 degrees.” Many people in the building desperate to call for help waved their flashing torchlights in the hopes of getting attention.
The affected areas also had to contend with rockfall, cracked roads, blackouts and gas leaks that were reported elsewhere across the island.
The Central Weather Bureau had also reported eight strong aftershocks following the first, which it said struck at 11.50pm at a depth of 10km, some 18km off the coast. It sent shockwaves through the island, including the capital Taipei and the main cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan.
Premier Lai Ching-te has given orders for an all-out rescue effort as troops were deployed
The President’s office also released a statement and said: “The President [Tsai Ing-wen] has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the ‘disaster mechanism’ and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work.”
On Sunday, five shallow tremors struck within two hours of each other in the same area off Taiwan’s north-eastern coast. The island’s worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.
Taiwan also lies on the Pacific "ring of fire" where earthquakes are common.