Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said Friday that a strong earthquake hit its northeast, tearing down buildings in a commercial district and possibly injuring dozens of people.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and was centered about 62 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of the city of Hualien and about 10 miles (16 kilometers) below the surface.
Hualien city spokeswoman Linda Chen said initial reports suggest at least one building collapsed, but authorities were still working to verify the number of injuries.
Hualien Mayor Linda Chang said a residential building collapsed and there was damage to another structure but she did not say if it was a residential or commercial building. She said it was too early to determine the cause of the collapse and initial reports suggest at least one person was seriously injured.
Chen said the city is expecting hundreds of injured people to arrive at hospitals.
Video shown on Taiwan’s Cable TV showed firefighters at the edge of a large fire at a Kmart store in Hualien’s Yida Industrial Area.
A fire department report showed more than 70 firefighters were battling a three-alarm blaze at the store. One firefighter was wounded while battling the fire.
An eyewitness told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that she had been shopping at a discount store when the earthquake struck. She said that at first she didn’t notice anything unusual but then everything shook.
Samples of the soil near the epicenter showed that the ground was not very developed, which makes the damage less severe, seismologist Eric Cheng told the agency.
Taiwan sits on a seismically active region of the Pacific where the Nazca tectonic plate meets the South Asia plate. More than 70 aftershocks followed the main quake, including some of magnitude 4.5, according to the USGS.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a leading Taiwan chipmaker, said one of its plants in Hualien was closed for inspections.
Hualien is located near scenic Saiping island, a popular tourist destination that was hit by an earthquake in 1999 that killed more than 2,300 people.