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Aftershocks ripple through Taiwan

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Quake rattles Taiwan
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Quake followed by more than 15 aftershocks, the largest reaching 4.8
  • 6.4 quake rocks southern Taiwan at about 0120 GMT; no immediate reports of deaths
  • Quake hits northwest of Taitung, on the southeast coast
  • Residents in southern Taiwan report blackouts; train services disrupted
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(CNN) -- Aftershocks rattled southern Taiwan in the hours after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook the island, but left it relatively unscathed.

Thursday morning's quake was followed by more than 15 aftershocks, the largest reaching 4.8.

Taiwan's interior ministry reported 12 minor injuries -- nine in Kaohsiung county, two in Jia Yi county and one in Tainan county.

The quake struck about 8:20 a.m. (7:20 p.m. Wednesday ET) in a mountainous region about 25 miles northwest of Taitung, on the southeast coast, and 40 miles east of Tainan and Kaohsiung on the southwest coast.

The region includes Taiwan's Maolin National Scenic Area and is still recovering from a direct hit by Typhoon Morakot that killed hundreds in August. The typhoon dumped more than two feet of rain, causing serious mudslides in the south, including one that buried the village of Shiao Lin under 50 feet of mud.

Shuo Hong, an orthopedic surgeon in Taipei, about 155 miles away from the epicenter, felt the earthquake during a meeting at a hospital. "We were debating whether or not to run for shelter, but the hospital is safe," he said "It is built to resist a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

"It was shaking for about 20 to 30 seconds, shaking more than what we expected," Hong said.

Were you there? Did you feel it?

The Taiwan Ministry of Interior and the National Fire Agency said electricity was cut off in parts of Kaohsiung county, Jia Yi city and Jia Yi county. Taiwan's official news agency reported that a fire broke out in Jia Yi city.

Residents in southern Taiwan reported cracks in some buildings and major bridges. Train service was also disrupted in some areas, Taiwanese media reported.

Two small hotels near the epicenter that were contacted by CNN reported no damage, though the buildings shook for a few seconds during the quake.

Albert Yu, communications manager of the humanitarian organization World Vision, told CNN he was about half-way through a 90-minute trip via high-speed train from Taipei to Tainan when the quake struck. Passengers did not feel the quake, he said, but operators stopped the train and announced what had happened before inspecting the tracks for stability.

During the delay, Yu said people were calm, "opening laptops ... and chatting with people around them."

Yu said World Vision "has already been on high alert responding to the quakes in Haiti and Chile, so we're closely monitoring reports in the earthquake in southern Taiwan."

Residents in Taipei, the capital, also felt the shaking.

Earthquakes are far from uncommon on the nearly 14,000-square-mile island -- about the size of the U.S. states of Maryland and Delaware combined -- which sits across the juncture of the Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates.

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the same general region in December. The island took a double hit on December 26, 2006, when earthquakes of 7.1 and 6.9 magnitude hit eight minutes apart.

The largest recorded quake to strike Taiwan was an 8.0-magnitude quake in 1920, but the worst earthquake disaster stemmed from a 7.1-magnitude quake in 1935 that killed more than 3,200 people -- followed by a 6.5-magnitude quake that killed more than 2,700 people three months later.

More recently, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,400 people in 1999.

CNN's Christine Theodorou and Journalist Andrew Lee contributed to this report

 
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