TAIPEI - A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Taiwan today, terrifying residents, disrupting communications, and triggering at least one large fire. Local news reports said several people were injured.
No tsunami alert was issued. The quake was centered in the same mountainous region of rural Kaohsiung County that endured the brunt of the damage from Typhoon Morakot, a devastating storm that killed about 700 people in August.
Actor Chu Chung-heng said he and other passengers were close to panic when the quake dislodged the high-speed train on which they were traveling from its tracks.
“Many people in my car were screaming,’’ he said. “I was so scared that I couldn’t make a sound. The train shook very hard, and I thought it was going to overturn.’’
In Tainan, a fire broke out in a textile factory shortly after the quake hit.
Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Central Weather Bureau’s Seismology Center, said the quake was not geologically related to the massive temblor that hit Chile on Saturday, but its intensity was unusual for the area.
“This is the biggest quake to hit this region in more than a century,’’ he said.
The quake’s epicenter was near the town of Jiashian. Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage.