SEVERE AFTERSHOCKS may have contributed to the extensive structural damage to modern buildings reported after Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake in Taiwan.
More than 1,700 people had been reported dead and over 4,000 injured as NCE went to press on Tuesday night. Seismologists around the world were still analysing data from the quake, which struck at 1.47am on Tuesday.
Preliminary calculations put the magnitude of the first shock at 7.6 on the Richter scale - but it was followed by six major aftershocks within four hours, one measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was 150km south west of the Taiwanese capital Taipei, close to the towns of Nantou and Taichang.
Early reports from the region suggested that many residential buildings had collapsed, including several modern medium and high rise structures.
United States Geological Survey geophysicist Waverly Person said that buildings which resisted the first shock may have been weakened and brought down by the aftershocks.
Taipei escaped relatively unscathed, with only two major building collapses reported and the main disruption coming from power cuts. Mott MacDonald regional director Sati Bhogal reported on Tuesday afternoon that power was back on and he expected to be working normally on Wednesday.
British Geological Survey seismologist Jacqueline Bott said on Tuesday: 'We're still not sure of the exact depth of the epicentre but it looks relatively shallow - 33km or less. It was a typical thrust event, which could have produced high vertical accelerations on the surface near the epicentre.'