Toll rises after Taiwan quake
TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- Five people are confirmed dead and more than 200 injured as Taiwan begins clean up operations after a powerful 6.8 earthquake hit the island.
The deaths occured as cranes and scaffolding at a high-rise building site crashed to the ground in the aftermath of the quake which started fires, shattered windows and cracked walls.
The threat of aftershocks remains high with more than 120 already recorded since the initial tremor, centered near Hualien in the eastern part of the island, on Sunday afternoon.
Television footage showed two cranes tumbling down from the 60th floor of the construction site, bringing steel beams and chunks of cement down with them.
Police identified the victims as two crane operators and three other construction workers. Dozens of other workers, many of them from Thailand, escaped safely, witnesses told the Associated Press.
About 10 people were hurt by the falling debris, including a woman whose hand was severed when part of a crane came crashing down on her car.
The building under construction -- the Taipei Financial Center -- will be Taipei's tallest when completed, towering more than 100 stories high.
Officials said an investigation will be conducted into the accident.
Elsewhere in the capital Taipei buildings rocked back and forth, cracks appeared in walls and frightened people ran from homes and churches. State radio said that gas leaks started several small fires.
A five-storey apartment building in central Taipei collapsed, with five people trapped under the rubble, Reuters reported rescue workers as saying.
Weeping family members prayed as rescuers dug into the rubble to find victims. At least 13 people were trapped and five were injured, the government's disaster response center said.
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian was visiting Hualien when the quake struck at 2:52 p.m. (0652 GMT) and went on national television to assure the nation he was not harmed.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor had preliminary magnitude of 7.1 and described it as a major quake.
"The situation is under control. Please be calm," Premier Yu Shyi-kun told reporters.
The government mobilised soldiers and firefighters to help rescue work, Yu was reported by Reuters as saying.
Local media reported three buildings had collapsed or partially collapsed, and Taipei's subway has been shut down after a water pipe at one station broke. Water and gas pipes were also ruptured around the city because of the powerful quake, the reports said.
Authorities discovered large cracks in a freeway bridge in the center of the city.
Landslides cut off a freeway in the eastern part of Taiwan, and threatened several bridges. A rockslide injured an eight-year-old boy near Hualien, local reports said.
In September 1999, more than 2,400 people lost their lives and more than 11,000 were injured in a massive 7.6-magnitude earthquake.
Taiwan lies on a seismically active stretch of the Pacific basin and earthquakes occur frequently.
Japan's Meteorological Agency issued tsunami warnings after the Taiwan earthquake but later cancelled them.
"We cancelled the warnings because we judged that there was no concern of damage from tsunamis," an agency official said, adding a tsunami 20 cm (eight inches) high was detected at southern Yonaguni Island and a smaller tsunami occurred at Ishigaki Island before the warnings were cancelled.
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