Published On: Wed, Apr 3rd, 2024

At least 7 dead in Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years

At least 7 dead in Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years
At least 7 dead in Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years

HONG KONG — A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday off Taiwan, killing seven people, injuring hundreds and collapsing buildings in the island’s most powerful tremor in at least 25 years.

The quake happened around 8 a.m. local time (8 p.m. Tuesday ET) at a depth of about 21 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was about 11 miles south-southwest of Hualien City on the island’s east coast.

At least seven people died and 736 people were injured, Reuters reported, citing Taiwan’s fire department. Officials said the number of casualties could rise in the coming days.

The earthquake also prompted tsunami warnings that were later lifted in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that while national authorities might continue to issue their own information, “the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed.”

The damage was concentrated in the eastern Taiwan county of Hualien, near the quake’s epicenter, where officials said they were working to free 77 people who were trapped.

Video on social media showed a building in Hualien that appeared to be nine stories tall partially collapsed and left standing at an angle. Another, appearing to have five floors, was similarly situated.

A damaged building in Hualien City, Taiwan, after an earthquake
A damaged building in Hualien City, Taiwan, after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday.TVBS via AP

The earthquake was felt in all parts of Taiwan, the Central News Agency reported, disrupting rail services across the island and damaging a major highway in Hualien. Metro systems in Taipei, the capital, as well as the cities of Taichung and Kaohsiung, were suspended before mostly resuming, the agency said.

The earthquake knocked out power for more than 87,000 households and was followed by a series of aftershocks, the biggest of which measured 6.5, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration. The agency listed the magnitude of the initial earthquake at 7.2.

Seismology official Wu Chien-fu said it was Taiwan’s strongest earthquake since 1999, when a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed about 2,400 people.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Wednesday that a disaster response center had been set up and that the National Army would provide support to local governments. Citing the aftershocks, she said, “I would like to remind everyone not to take the elevator for the time being, and to pay more attention to safety.”

TSMC, one of the biggest companies in Taiwan’s crucial semiconductor manufacturing industry, said its safety systems were operating normally and that some fabrication plants had been evacuated as a preventive measure.

“All personnel are safe, and those evacuated are beginning to return to their workplaces,” the company said in a statement. “The company is currently confirming the details of the impact.”

Earlier Wednesday, officials in Japan issued a tsunami warning and an evacuation order for coastal areas of the southern prefecture of Okinawa, warning of waves up to 3 meters (about 10 feet) high. As of late morning, the biggest reported wave was 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) on the Japanese island of Yonaguni, which is close to Taiwan.

A tsunami warning and evacuation orders were also issued in parts of the Philippines.

Feelings of tremors were reported elsewhere in the region, including by social media users in Fujian, a province on China’s southeast coast that sits across from Taiwan. Videos posted online also showed chandeliers swaying in cities in other parts of China including Shanghai and Hangzhou.

In the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Observatory said it had received more than 100 reports of tremors, describing the vibration as akin to the “passing of light trucks.”

A spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office in China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, said mainland authorities extended “sincere condolences to the affected compatriots in Taiwan,” and would closely monitor the situation and provide assistance in disaster relief.

The USGS said the shaking from the initial quake would have been “very strong” in the Hualien area and strongly felt elsewhere.

A live camera on YouTube at Liyu Lake near Hualien that had been showing a peaceful, sunny scene began to violently shake at 7:58 a.m. local time.

Hualien City, about 70 miles southeast of Taipei, has a population of around 106,000. The county’s population is around 340,000.

Taiwan is on the so-called Ring of Fire, which circles the Pacific Basin and is known for earthquakes.

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Phil Helsel reported from Los Angeles.

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