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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Strong earthquake rocks Taiwan
Crane falls from construction site
A crane crashed to the ground when the quake hit
A powerful earthquake has shaken Taiwan, killing at least four people and injuring more than 200.

The tremors were felt across the island. In the capital Taipei, several buildings collapsed, and frightened people ran out of homes and churches.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said the quake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, was centred near Hualien, 180 kilometres (108 miles) east of Taipei.

The tremors are being described as the worst to hit the island since the 1999 earthquake that killed 2,400 people and left 100,000 homeless.

People trapped

Four people were killed when two cranes crashed to the ground from the 60th floor of a building under construction.

A man tends to an injured woman in Taipei
Dozens of people have been injured
Many others were injured on the construction site of the proposed 101-storey skyscraper, the Taipei Financial Centre.

Elsewhere, small fires have broken out and cracks have appeared in bridges.

One four-storey building in the centre of Taipei has half-collapsed and is leaning into the street.

Vice-Mayor Ou Chin-teh told reporters that police were trying to rescue seven people believed to be trapped inside.

Taipei's underground railway system has been closed down for safety checks.

Map of Taiwan
The Japanese Meteorological Agency said a small tsunami wave, sparked by the seismic activity, had reached the island of Yonaguni.

A tsunami warning for the southern island chains of Yaeyama, Miyakojima and Okinawa, was later withdrawn.

Strong underwater earthquakes frequently generate tsunamis, but their size and speed are hard to predict.

The BBC's Helen Leavy
"The casualty figures do seem to be rising"
The BBC's Michael Bristow
"Major tremors were felt across the island"
See also:

14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Powerful earthquake hits Taiwan
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Killer waves so hard to detect
28 Feb 01 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
30 Nov 98 | World
The Earth's Ring of Fire
21 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Taiwan
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