A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Taiwan on Thursday, causing widespread damage and disrupting communications around the island. Local news reports said several people were injured.

The quake was centred in the county of Kaohsiung, and struck at a depth of about 3.1 miles (5 kilometres). Kaohsiung is about 249 miles (400 kilometres) south of the capital Taipei.

No tsunami alert was issued.

Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Central Weather Bureau’s Seismology Centre, said the Taiwan quake was not geologically related to the temblor that hit Chile over the weekend, killing more than 800 people.

In the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, a fire broke out in a textile factory shortly after Thursday’s quake struck, sending huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the air. At least one train in southern Taiwan shifted slightly off its tracks, and authorities suspended service throughout the region. Subway service in the city of Kaohsiung was temporarily disrupted.

Power outages hit Taipei and at least one county to the south, and telephone service in some parts of Taiwan was spotty.

Buildings swayed in the capital when the quake struck.

The quake’s epicentre was near the town of Jiashian, in the same area where a devastating typhoon struck last August. A Kaohsiung county official told CTI TV news that some temporary housing in the town collapsed as a result of the quake.

The Ministry of Defence said troops were dispatched to Jiashian to report on damage.

CTI reported one person was moderately injured by falling debris in Kaohsiung, and one woman was hospitalized after a wall collapsed on her scooter in the southern city of Chiayi. Also in Chiayi, one person was hurt by a falling tree, government-owned Central News Agency said.

A spokesman for Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said authorities had been instructed to follow the quake situation closely and take steps to mitigate damage and dislocation.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan but most are minor and cause little or no damage.

However, a 7.6-magnitude temblor in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people. In 2006 a 6.7-magnitude quake south of Kaohsiung severed undersea cables and disrupted telephone and Internet service to millions throughout Asia.

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