Japanese forecasters had warned the 6.6 magnitude earthquake could cause a tsunami as high as one metre (three feet) affecting several islands in the Okinawa chain, but lifted the alert around an hour later, with no abnormal waves recorded.

No damage was reported in Japan, but a four-storey apartment building in New Taipei City caught fire after an electrical box outside the block exploded in the quake.

A 65-year-old man who lived in the building "showed no signs of life" at the scene, the fire service said.

Another 18-year-old resident remains in hospital with smoke inhalation, but he is not in a serious condition, the fire service cited.

Residents and office workers were evacuated from a building in central Taipei because of a feared gas leak and vehicles in a nearby multi-storey carpark were overturned, but no one was injured.

In Japan, local authorities urged people to move away from the coast and seek higher ground, in a drill that has become fairly regular in a country prone to powerful earthquakes and occasional devastating tsunamis.

However, an hour after the quake, the Japan Meteorological Agency cancelled the warning.

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