Strong Taiwan Quake Shakes Buildings in Capital

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck eastern Taiwan, shaking buildings in the capital and prompting the island’s biggest chipmaker to temporarily evacuate factory workers.

The 78-second tremor, felt islandwide, occurred at about 8:02 p.m. local time yesterday, according to a statement on the website of the island’s Central Weather Bureau. The epicenter was 52.9 kilometers south of the coastal city of Hualien and at a depth of 19.5 kilometers, it said. One person was injured.

Buildings in Taipei, the capital, swayed for several seconds. Trains were delayed, affecting 9,500 travelers, before services resumed last night. Flights weren’t disrupted at Taoyuan International Airport Corp.

“It was pretty strong,” said Eric Chan, a 35-year-old businessman who was waiting for a flight back to Hong Kong, where he’s based. “I saw the water in my glass shaking and the lights shaking. It must have been like that for 10 or 15 seconds. The waitress told me not to worry because the airport is quake-proofed.”

A 79-year-old woman in Hualien County was hospitalized for broken bones after she was injured by furniture during yesterday’s quake, National Fire Agency official Lin Kuan-cheng said by phone today. Some people were trapped in elevators, CNA reported. Tiles fell off a building and damaged a car in Taipei City, according to TVBS cable television.

Chipmakers Halted

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract maker of chips, evacuated three factories for a few minutes after the temblor, Michael Kramer, a spokesman, said by phone. Workers have returned to their jobs, he said.

United Microelectronics Corp., another chipmaker, halted some of its machines and will resume operations in a few hours, Chief Financial Officer Liu Chitung said yesterday.

Wafer maker Nanya Technology Corp. said it found no damage to its equipment or products in a statement to Taiwan’s stock exchange. Inotera Memories Inc. said in a separate statement the earthquake won’t affect its finances.

Electricity supply and operations at nuclear plants are normal, Roger Lee, a Taiwan Power Co. spokesman, said by phone.

After the tremor, 63 aftershocks measuring as strong as 4.8 on the Richter scale hit Hualien County as of 9:23 a.m. today, Hsiao Nai-chi, a specialist at the weather bureau, said by phone. This year, there have been 141 quakes of at least 4.0, with the strongest of 6.8 on Sept. 6, Hsiao said.

An 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999, killed 2,474 people and injured about 11,000, causing estimated visible property damage of NT$341.2 billion ($10.7 billion), the government said at the time.

Taiwan’s economy grew at the slowest pace in a year in the third quarter, as a weak global recovery reduced demand for the island’s exports.

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