A Cluster of Earthquakes Shakes Taiwan After a Strong Quake Killed 13 Earlier This Month

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- A cluster of earthquakes struck the island republic of Taiwan early Tuesday, the strongest having a magnitude of 6.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no reports of casualties in the quakes, although there were further damages to two multi-story buildings that had been evacuated following a magnitude 7.4 quake that hit the island earlier this month, killing 13 people and injuring over 1,000. That earthquake was centered along the coast of the rural and mountainous Hualien County.

It was the strongest earthquake in the past 25 years in Taiwan and was followed by hundreds of aftershocks. The quakes Tuesday's are considered the latest of those.

According to the USGS, Tuesday's quake of 6.1 magnitude had its epicenter 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) south of the city of Hualien, at a dept of 10.7 kilometers. The half-dozen other quakes ranged from magnitude 4.5 to magnitude 6, all near Hualien. Taiwan's own earthquake monitoring center put the magnitudes of the initial quake at 6.3. Such small discrepancies are common between monitoring stations.

The largest among them were two earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and 6.3 that occurred at 2:26 a.m. and 2:32 a.m. Tuesday, respectively, according to the Taiwan center. Numerous of the scores of aftershocks could be felt on the upper floors of a apartment buildings in the capital Taipei, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) across steep mountains to the northwest.

The Full Hotel in downtown Hualien partially collapsed during the quakes and was left leaning at a severe angle, However, it had been undergoing renovations and was unoccupied at the time. The nearby Tong Shuai Building was also empty, having been marked for demolition after being heavily damaged in the April 3 quake.

Schools and offices in Hualien and the surrounding county were ordered closed on Tuesday as hundreds of aftershocks continued to strike on land and just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean, the vast majority below magnitude 3. Authorities advised anyone whose home had been damaged in the last quake to move out until the aftershocks subsided, and some decided to wait in their cars.

Rock slides closed a section of road in the rugged Taroko Gorge, where several hikers lost their lives in the April 3 quake. Although train service from Taipei to Hualien was suspended, the disruption to traffic was minimal and the road, provincial highway 8, was expected to be cleared by Wednesday. Cracks opened on some walkways and bridges and some tiles fell from exterior walls, but damage was only slight.

Taiwan is no stranger to powerful earthquakes yet their toll on the high-tech island's 23 million residents has been relatively contained thanks to its excellent earthquake preparedness, experts say. The island also has strict construction standards and widespread public education campaigns about earthquakes.

In 1999, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Taiwan killed 2,400 people.

Taiwan lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean from South America to Japan, Indonesia and New Zealand, along with most of the world's earthquakes occur. Quakes, often with their epicenters in the Pacific, are a near-daily occurrence on the island, where they are often referred to as "the movement of the earth cattle."

Taiwan's Cabinet has set aside more than $20 billion Taiwan Dollars ($614.9 million) for relief and reconstruction following the April 3 quake.