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Taiwan braces for quake aftershocks

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- Scientists in Taiwan are warning residents to brace for further aftershocks following a weekend earthquake that killed five people.

More than 350 aftershocks have been recorded since Sunday's 6.8 magnitude quake, the most powerful of which measured 4.8 in magnitude, triggering landslides in eastern Taiwan on Monday.

No injuries were reported in the landslides, according to the Associated Press.

Two crane operators and three other construction workers are confirmed dead and more than 200 injured after the strong tremor hit the island Sunday.

The deaths occurred 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.

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.

Dozens of other workers, many of them from Thailand, escaped safely, witnesses told the Associated Press.

Falling debris

Taiwan reels from the powerful earthquake. Correspondent Jason Blatt reports.

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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, 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. 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 a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 and described it as a major quake.


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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