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6.4 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Southern Taiwan


A magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck Taiwan. The epicenter was in the south of the country near Tainan City. Multiple buildings collapsed in the early hours of the morning while people were still sleeping. NPR's Elise Hu in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, and she joins us now. And Elise, where you were, did you feel the earthquake?

ELISE HU, BYLINE: I didn't feel it, Kelly. I slept right through it, but my mother did, which is to say it could be felt here in Taipei. This island is pretty small. Taipei is about a four-hour drive north of the epicenter of the quake.

MCEVERS: We should say there's just a little bit of a delay on the line. But tell us, Elise, what is the extent of the damage as far as you know right now?

HU: Several buildings have collapsed or are currently standing at perilous angles. A greater concern right now is the residential building where hundreds of people live. Footage from local news show that apartment building basically collapsed onto itself like an accordion. It was reportedly 17 floors, and now only four stories appear to be intact. The others are just crushed. Rescue workers are trying to get the people through windows, but it's dangerous since there's still risk of aftershocks and the structural stability of the building is unclear. Additionally, power is now out to about 120,000 people in southern Taiwan and trains have stopped running. This is actually a critical weekend for transportation since it is the weekend before Chinese New Year.


HU: Millions of people in East Asia are traveling to get home to family for the holiday.

MCEVERS: Tell us a little bit more about southern Taiwan, the area where this earthquake happened. As we said, it's close to Tainan City. That's again the south of Taiwan Island?

HU: That's right. So Tainan is the second-biggest city in southern Taiwan behind Kaohsiung (ph). Taiwan has a population of about 23 million people, and 2 million - an estimated two million of the 23 million in Taiwan actually live in and around Tainan. It is about 180 miles south of the capital city of Taipei, a pretty populated area. So everything is pretty fluid right now down there in the southern part of the island. The biggest effect on everybody in that region is going to be power and transport...


HU: ...Since the trains have been halted.

MCEVERS: Are earthquakes unusual in Taiwan?

HU: Actually not. You know, Taiwan sits on a big tectonic plate so earthquakes are pretty common. Usually, they're nonevents since the Taiwanese are so used to earthquakes and most structures are built to withstand them. This particular quake early this morning in Taiwan was shallow, so its effect would have been amplified, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But Taiwan is often rattled by earthquakes. There's (unintelligible) 921 big earthquake from 1999 that people still talk about. That was a 7.6-magnitude quake in the center of the country. That killed more than 2000 people in 1999.

MCEVERS: Well, thanks to you, NPR's Elise Hu in Taiwan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
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