Hundreds injured as earthquake rocks Taiwan
There were no reports of fatalities following the tremor which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and came just a month after the island's worst quake in living memory.
The strong earthquake, which struck at 10:19 a.m. (0219 GMT), sent people fleeing in panic from swaying homes, offices and classrooms.
Television footage showed politicians in the southern city of Kaohsiung dashing from the floor during a debate and patients in a hospital seeking shelter under tables.
A total of 324 people had taken medical treatment of bruises, cuts and other injuries while several dozen buildings were damaged, the rescue center said.
The quake was followed by 180 aftershocks in eight hours including 12 above 4.0 on the Richter scale, a seismology center official said.
A building of the Min Hsiung engineering school in Chiayi toppled injuring seven students, who were in stable condition after medical treatment, the center said.
Eight students in another vocational school suffered minor cuts from broken glass, it said.
Powerful shakes had also overturned test tubes in laboratories of Chung Cheng University sparking explosions and fires which shattered glass windows. Two students suffered minor injuries.
President Lee Teng-hui and Premier Vincent Siew offered immediate help after inspecting the schools.
There were also gas leaks in several buildings in Chiayi and telephone lines were cut in the downtown area, a rescue official told AFP.
Local television showed tilted schools and some structures which had sunk into the ground.
Power supplies to some 91,000 users were also cut, although users had power restored several hours later.
The latest tremors also caused panic selling in the local bourse where share prices dipped 95.27 points, or 1.2 percent, to 7,559.63, with high-tech issues suffering the most.
In the destructive September 21 quake, power outage had caused millions of US dollars in loss to manufacturers in the Science-Based Hsinchu Science Industrial Park in northern Taiwan.
Park officials said operation of the complex was not affected by Friday's striks.
The epicenter of Friday's main tremor was 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) northwest of Chiayi, the seismology center said. It originated 12.1 kilometers (7.5 miles) underground.
It was also felt in Hong Kong, several hundred kilometres away.
"The quake was possibly caused by the movement of the Meishan fault line going through Chiayi," said the center's director Kao Kai-wen.
"Very few quakes with magnitutes over 6.0 had hit Chiayi area and this tremor would help release energy accumulated over the past 30 years and alleviate concerns of an even more powerful earthquake," Kao said.
In July of last year, Chiayi was hit by a strong quake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale which had left five dead and 26 injured.
Seismologists have warned that Taiwan might be hit by more quakes after last month's massive temblor.
More than 13,100 aftershocks have been recorded since the fatal quake, which left at least 2,405 people dead and 11,306 injured. Seventy-nine people are still unaccounted for and the damage to the country is estimated at 9.2 billion US dollars.
Copyright (c) 1999 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 10/22/1999 07:41:22
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