The strongest earthquake in 25 years hits Taiwan: at least 4 dead, more than 50 injured | Abroad


updateTaiwan, Japan and the Philippines declared a tsunami alert on Wednesday morning local time after a major earthquake near Taiwan, which left at least four dead and more than 50 injured, according to the Taiwanese fire brigade. The quake struck at just before 8 a.m. in Taiwan (2 a.m. Belgian time). The danger of a tsunami now appears to be over and the alarm has been lifted. The earthquake was also felt on mainland China, including in the metropolis of Shanghai, Chinese state media reported.

LOOK. Dozens injured after “heaviest earthquake in 25 years”

The quake occurred off the east coast of Taiwan at a depth of 15.5 kilometers. The Taiwan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.2. The Japanese Meteorological Institute first reported 7.5, but later adjusted this to 7.7, while the American Seismological Institute (USGS) speaks of a magnitude of 7.4.

Taiwan’s fire brigade said one person was believed to have been crushed by falling rocks in the mountainous, sparsely populated eastern province of Hualien, where the quake’s epicenter was. In addition, more than 50 people were injured. At least 26 buildings have collapsed, more than half of them in the city of Hualien, where about 20 people are still trapped under the rubble. Rescue work is in full swing. Three people were injured when a warehouse collapsed in the northern city of New Taipei, several Taiwanese media reported. Electricity has failed in large parts of the island: around 87,000 households are still without power, network operator Taipower said.

People are rescued from a partially collapsed building in the eastern city of Hualien. © AP

According to eyewitnesses, the earthquake was also clearly felt in the Taiwanese capital Taipei, but no major damage has been reported there so far. However, an aftershock was felt in the capital a few hours later. Public transport has been stopped in various places on the island with 23 million inhabitants, as has train traffic on the high-speed lines. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC has evacuated its business premises as a precaution.

According to the director of the Taipei Seismology Center, Wu Chien-fu, it is “the strongest earthquake in 25 years” on the island. “The earthquake was close to the coast and not deep. It was felt throughout Taiwan and the neighboring islands. It is the strongest quake in 25 years, since the 1999 earthquake,” Wu told the press. In September of that year, a magnitude 7.6 quake killed 2,400.

A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien. © AP

Tsunami hazard

Tsunami warnings were issued for Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines after the quake, but these have now been reversed. Japanese authorities said a tsunami of 30 centimeters was recorded around 9:30 a.m. local time on Yonaguni Island, located about 111 kilometers east of Taiwan. Later the waves also reached Ishigaki Island. Residents of the Okinawa Islands were urgently advised to evacuate to higher ground as waves of three meters or higher are possible in Okinawa. “Evacuate to higher ground, do not return,” said a presenter of the Japanese public channel ‘NHK’. Japan’s endangered islands include Miyakojima, home to about 45,000 people.

Air traffic at Naha Airport, Okinawa’s main airport, has been temporarily halted after the major earthquake. Air traffic was suspended as a precaution at 9:25 a.m. (2:25 a.m. Belgian time), an official from the Ministry of Transport said. The flights en route to the airport are diverted. Passengers at the airport were evacuated, Kyodo news agency reported.

Taiwan also issued a tsunami alert after the earthquake on the island’s east coast. “The earthquake could cause a tsunami that could hit Taiwan. A tsunami alert has been declared to urge residents of the coastal zones to be careful,” said a warning message sent by the government to the Taiwanese.

Authorities in the Philippines also warned of “high tsunami waves” and called for the evacuation of coastal zones after the major earthquake near Taiwan. “It is strongly recommended that residents of the coastal municipalities in these provinces immediately evacuate to higher areas or move more inland,” said an advisory from the national seismological institute for 23 provinces.

A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien.
A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien. © AP
A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien.
A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien. © AP
A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien.
A building partially collapsed in the eastern city of Hualien. © AP

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