Relaymedia

Fears of Tsunami Ease after Taiwan Quake

A powerful earthquake struck off southwestern Taiwan on Tuesday, briefly prompting fears of a tsunami on the second anniversary of the quake and deadly waves that killed thousands in south Asia.
( [email protected] ) Dec 26, 2006 02:05 PM EST

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A powerful earthquake struck off southwestern Taiwan on Tuesday, briefly prompting fears of a tsunami on the second anniversary of the quake and deadly waves that killed thousands in south Asia.

Taiwanese media reported one person died and three were injured when their home collapsed in the southern city of Pintung. Other reports said city streets had cracked and a major bridge was damaged. They said fires were burning out in the area, apparently caused by downed power cables.

The quake was felt throughout Taiwan. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated its magnitude at 7.1, while Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau measured it at 6.7. It was followed eight minutes later by 7.0 magnitude aftershock, the USGS said.

Two hours later, an official at Japan's Meteorological Agency said there was no longer any danger of a destructive tsunami headed for the Philippines, as had been predicted.

"The danger has passed," said Hiroshi Koide of the agency's earthquake section. "We predicted tsunami based on the depth and magnitude of the earthquake. But ultimately, it appears no large tsunami were triggered."

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 30-year-old manager at Kaohsiung's Ambassador Hotel, said she had never before felt such a strong quake: "The building swayed so badly that many panicky guests ran out of their rooms and into the streets."

The initial tremor was centered at sea about 13 miles southwest of Hengchun on the southern tip of Taiwan, the bureau said. Hengchun is about 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, but a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in central Taiwan in September 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

A 9.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004 caused a tsunami that killed at least 230,000 people in 11 countries. Those waves reached as high as 33 feet.