The 6.9-magnitude earthquake followed multiple tremors after an earlier quake struck off Taiwan's southeastern coast.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.
Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates. (AA Archive)

A strong earthquake has struck Taiwan's southeastern coast, the US Geological Survey said, bringing at least three buildings down and tearing up roads, but forecasters said the threat of a regional tsunami had passed.

The quake hit on Sunday at 0644 GMT (2:44 pm local) about 50 kilometres north of the city of Taitung at a depth of 10 kilometres, the USGS said.

Its initial strength was given as 7.2-magnitude but USGS later downgraded it to a 6.9-magnitude quake.

In the Taiwanese town of Yuli, a two-storey building that had a 7-Eleven convenience store on the ground floor collapsed. 

The Hualien fire department said four people who were trapped in the building were rescued.

Two other buildings in the town collapsed but no one was inside them, the department added. 

Two nearby bridges also collapsed while two others were damaged.

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At least 400 tourists were trapped by a landslide on a mountain in Yuli famous for the orange day lilies, Taiwan's Central News Agency said. 

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said a train derailed at Dongli station in Hualien after it was hit by concrete. No injuries were reported.

Pacific "Ring of Fire"

A 6.6-magnitude quake hit the same region earlier on Saturday and there have been multiple tremors since, but Sunday's quake was much stronger.

Japan's Meteorological Agency issued tsunami advisories shortly after the quake, but later said there was no longer a threat of high waves.

The China Earthquake Network Centre said tremors were clearly felt in coastal areas including Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai.

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Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. Most quakes cause minimal damage but the island also has a long history of deadly tremors.

Most of Taiwan's population lives on the flat western coast and in the capital Taipei. The scenic eastern coast is more remote and less populated but a major tourist draw.

Taiwan's deadliest ever quake was a 7.6-magnitude jolt in September 1999 that killed over 2,400 people.

Source: AFP