Powerful quake rocks Taiwan

A shallow 5.9-magnitude earthquake sent people fleeing onto the streets in Taiwan's second-largest city Kaohsiung on Sunday and rail services were temporarily suspended, but no casualties were reported.

The quake struck 57 kilometres (35 miles) east of the southern city at 10:34 am (0234 GMT) at a depth of just four kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The Hong Kong Observatory measured the quake at magnitude 6.0, while Taiwan's Seismology Centre put the magnitude at 6.1.

The National Fire Agency said there were no casualties or major material damage.

"A few Kaohsiung residents sought safety in the streets for a short while, but it wasn't many," a Kaohsiung police officer told AFP.

Chen Jung-yu, a spokesman for the Seismology Centre, said it was relatively rare for an earthquake of such magnitude to hit in the Kaohsiung area.

"While the quake was strong, it didn't last long. Even in some towns near the epicentre, buildings swayed for no more than seven seconds. That explained why it did not inflict damages," he told AFP.

A high-speed railway linking Kaohsiung with Taiwan's capital Taipei in the north resumed about 90 minutes after the quake prompted services to be suspended.

The greater metropolitan area of Kaohsiung has a population of nearly three million people.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's recent history.

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