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Magnitude 7.2 earthquake strongest since 1999 killer quake: CWB

2016/05/31 17:09:52

(From the Central Weather Bureau website)

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) A magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck off Taiwan's northern coast early Tuesday afternoon was the strongest in the country in 17 years, but it is not expected to be followed by many aftershocks, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Tuesday's earthquake, centered 73.1 kilometers northeast of Keelung, was the biggest since a magnitude 7.3 quake struck Taiwan on Sept. 21, 1999 and left more that 2,400 people dead.

In that devastating quake, the epicenter was located under the town of Jiji in Nantou County, central Taiwan, at a shallow depth of five kilometers, while Tuesday's began at a depth of 271 km.

Because the 1999 earthquake was so shallow, it released energy equal to 46 atomic bombs, compared with the energy of 32 atomic bombs released by Tuesday's temblor.

Kuo Kai-wen (郭鎧紋), director of the bureau's seismology center, said Taiwanese should not fret over the sizable earthquake because it was deep and far off Taiwan's coast.

"Based on past experience, there will not be too many aftershocks, and the public need not worry," Kuo said.

He attributed the quake to the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate under the Eurasian Plate at their convergent boundary. Subduction describes the process when one tectonic plate moves under another and is forced down into the Earth's mantle.

Kuo said a magnitude 6.7 earthquake took place at a location near the epicenter of Tuesday's seismic event in December 2014, and there were no aftershocks afterwards.

The magnitude 7.2 quake rocked much of Taiwan, with the strongest shaking occurring in Yilan, Hualien and Nantou counties, where intensity levels of 4 were recorded on Taiwan's 0-7 intensity scale.

An intensity of three was recorded in Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung and Yunlin.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage.

The Water Resources Agency said it sent people to inspect reservoirs after the quake and did not detect any problems.

Nantou County Magistrate Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) said an intensity level of 4 was recorded at one of the county's highest and most popular mountains, Hohuanshan, and people visiting or hiking there should be on guard for loose soil and rocks.

(By Wang Shu-fen, Huang Chiao-wen, Hsiao Po-yang and Lilian Wu)