UPDATE 1 – Strong earthquake hits northeast Taiwan, buildings collapse

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 has struck just off the eastern coast of Taiwan, causing a hotel and other buildings to collapse, seismologists and residents say. There was no immediate word on casualties.

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 Hualian, 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 Hualian County and Yilan County, and as high as 5 in Nantou County.

Multiple buildings were seriously damaged in Hualian, but there was no immediate word on the extent of the damage or the possibility of casualties. Footage broadcast on local TV showed that a hotel had partially collapsed and was leaning over.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that as many as 85 million people across the region may have felt the earthquake, including 227,000 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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