Rescue efforts are underway as emergency services scramble to reach people potentially trapped in a partially collapsed hotel building after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck close to the city of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coastline Tuesday night.

Taiwan's Executive Yuan confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday that two people had died and more than 100 had been injured as a result of the disaster, even as rescue operations continue. Casualties have been taken to various local hospitals.

The Marshal Hotel on Gongyuan Road in Hualien City suffered major subsidence to the extent that the fourth floor is now level with the first floor. The Parkview Hotel and a residential complex, No. 41 Guosheng Sixth Street, are also reported to have tilted significantly under the force of the tremor.

A residential complex has also tilted at a 45 degree angle on its axis, while two major bridges have also cracked and are closed due to the damage. Reports continue to come in of other damage inflicted on buildings and critical infrastructure.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau registered the quake at 6.0, with its epicenter 18.3 km NNE of Hualien County at a depth of 10 km. The US Geological Survey later upgraded to 6.4 and put the epicenter at 22 km NNE of Hualien, at a similar depth.

Rescue services on the scene are attempting to use cranes and heavy lifting equipment to reach people possibly trapped in the buildings.

The quake is the largest of several that have rocked the east coast of Taiwan since late Sunday evening, with a series of smaller temblors rattling the area continually over the course of the last few days. Shocks could be felt as far away as Taipei.


Yi Fu LinCredit: Yi Fu Lin

The chart above, sourced from Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau, indicates the frequency and magnitude of what has been described as an "earthquake swarm" by Seismological Center Acting Director Chen Kuo-chang (陳國昌), who was quoted in a Taiwan News article.


Credit: Yi Fu Lin

As to whether Taiwan can expect further serious earthquakes, the answer is uncertain. Julie Dutton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey told The News Lens that there is potential for more aftershocks. "Statistically you can have one large quake and then aftershocks, but there are situations where another larger earthquake can occur," she said, adding that Taiwan is a highly seismic area and sometimes earthquakes can change the dynamic in the region and cause stresses in the same fault or adjacent faults.

"There is no way to answer these questions in future or predict or these earthquakes," Dutton said.

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