Earthquake rattles southern Taiwan, causing panic but no casualties


A strong earthquake struck southern Taiwan early on Sunday, with reports of minor property damage but no immediate reports of injuries. 

The Associated Press, citing the US Geological Survey, reported that the quake, centered in a mountainous area about 19 miles from the southern coastal city of Pingtung at a depth of 2.9 miles, registered a magnitude of 5.9.

However, the Hong Kong Observatory measured the quake at magnitude 6.0, while Taiwan's Seismology Centre and the Central Weather Bureau put the magnitude at 6.1.

According to Agence France-Presse, it sent people fleeing onto the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city.

The greater metropolitan area of Kaohsiung has a population of nearly three million people.

"A few Kaohsiung residents sought safety in the streets for a short while, but it wasn't many," a Kaohsiung police officer told AFP.

Chen Jung-yu, a spokesman for the Seismology Centre, said it was relatively rare for an earthquake of such magnitude to hit in the Kaohsiung area.

"While the quake was strong, it didn't last long. Even in some towns near the epicenter, buildings swayed for no more than seven seconds. That explained why it did not inflict damages," he told AFP.

A 6-4-magnitude quake hit the region near Kaohsiung on March 4, 2010.

TV reports featured footage of minor damage in the Pingtung area, with the high-speed rail service linking Taipei with Kaohsiung, north of Pingtung, reportedly suspended.

Taiwan, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates, is regularly hit by earthquakes, but most are minor and cause little or no damage, NBC News wrote on its website.

However, a magnitude-7.6 earthquake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

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