A strong earthquake killed one person and injured at least 86 others in Taiwan on Wednesday as violent shock waves damaged buildings and triggered two blazes, emergency officials said.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.0 and said it struck at 10:03 am (0203 GMT), 48 kilometres (30 miles) east of Nantou county in central Taiwan at a depth of 20.7 kilometres.

Taiwan's central weather bureau put the magnitude at 6.1, saying it was the largest quake this year and was felt across the island. Five aftershocks measuring from 3.7-4.3 in magnitude occurred in the two hours after the main tremor, it said.

The national fire agency said a 72-year-old woman at a temple in Nantou was struck by a wall that crumbled during the quake and died on the spot.

Eighty-six others were slightly injured mostly by falling rocks and other objects during the quake in the same county and the nearby Changhua and Taichung areas.

The quake also triggered two fires in houses in Nantou and Taichung that injured one person and had since been extinguished, it said.

The agency received five reports of people trapped in lifts during the quake but they had all found their way to safety.

Cable news channel SET TV showed footage of one woman in Nantou being carried to an ambulance after she was hit in the head by fragments of a ceiling in a government building that came loose during the quake.

"I was scared and nervous as the quake reminded me of the deadly September 21 earthquake in 1999, and luckily this one stopped quickly," said Chen Shao-sheng, who works for the private Show Chwan hospital in Nantou.

Nantou county was the epicentre of a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 21, 1999 that killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's recent history.

Taiwan's high speed rail and railway had temporarily suspended trains for safety reasons, reportedly affecting more than 30,000 passengers while the metro system in the capital Taipei was also briefly halted.

Many buildings in Taipei swayed while television footage showed some school children in Nantou screaming and fleeing their classrooms during the quake.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.