UPDATE 2 – Strong earthquake hits northeast Taiwan, killing at least 2

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 has struck just off the eastern coast of Taiwan, causing several buildings to collapse and killing at least two people, local officials and witnesses say. More than 100 people have been injured.

The earthquake, which struck at 11:50 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered in the water about 18 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Hualien City, or 98 kilometers (61 miles) east of Taichung City. It struck at a depth of 9 kilometers (5 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude at 6.4, while Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau put the magnitude at 6.0. The bureau said an intensity of 7 was recorded in parts of Central Hualien County and Yilan County, and as high as 5 in Nantou County.

Multiple buildings were seriously damaged in the area near the epicenter, including at least 7 buildings in Hualien City which were said to have collapsed. Footage broadcast on local TV showed that a hotel in the city had partially collapsed and was leaning over.

Hundreds of soldiers were sent to the quake-hit to assist in the search-and-rescue operation, which was continuing on early Wednesday morning. The Taiwanese government said 2 people were confirmed to have been killed and more than 100 others were taken to hospital for treatment.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that as many as 86 million people across the region may have felt the earthquake, including 206,000 people who could have experienced “strong” to “very strong” shaking. It said there was a low likelihood of major damage and casualties.

There is no threat of a tsunami.

Tuesday’s earthquake came just over two days after a strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the same area, causing damage but no casualties. Several residents in the region said Tuesday’s tremor felt stronger when compared to the one on Sunday.

Located along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan is at times rattled by moderate to strong earthquakes. A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck central Taiwan in September 1999, killing at least 2,297 people and injuring nearly 9,000 others.

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