Taiwan hit by the strongest earthquake in 25 years: at least nine dead and more than 700 injured

Taiwan hit by the strongest earthquake in 25 years: at least nine dead and more than 700 injured
Taiwan hit by the strongest earthquake in 25 years: at least nine dead and more than 700 injured

The earthquake struck just before 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. Belgian time) off the east coast of Taiwan. That is a predominantly sparsely populated area. However, Taiwanese authorities have so far counted at least nine victims and more than 700 injuries.

One person who was on a hiking trail is “presumed dead” after being crushed by a rock in the Hualien region, near the earthquake epicenter. The three other fatalities are also said to have died in a similar manner.

At least 13 buildings have also collapsed in the same city. According to local media, people are trapped under the rubble and rescue operations are underway. The earthquake also caused landslides in the district of the same name.

Hualien. — © AP

According to witnesses, the earthquake was also clearly felt in the capital Taipei. “The earthquake was close to the coast and not deep,” said Taipei Seismological Center director Wu Chien-fu. “It was felt throughout Taiwan and neighboring islands. It is the strongest earthquake in 25 years, since the 1999 earthquake.” In September of that year, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 killed 2,400.

Precautionary measures

Public transport has been shut down in various places on the island with 23 million inhabitants. More than 87,000 people are without power, and the internet has been interrupted in several areas. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC has evacuated its business premises in the city of Hsinchu as a precaution.

Air traffic at Japan’s Naha Airport, the main airport in Okinawa Prefecture, was halted. The flights en route to the airport were diverted and the passengers at the airport were evacuated.

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Help from China?

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Chen Chien-jen are expected in the city of New Taipei in the morning. The president has already stated that the army can be deployed in severely affected areas.

China offered Taiwan assistance in rescue efforts on Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said. It is not yet clear whether Taiwan will accept the aid. Relations between the two countries are tense as China considers Taiwan part of its territory.


Tsunami alert

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 15.5 kilometers. The Taiwan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.2. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported a magnitude of 7.7, while the American seismological agency USGS said it was 7.4.

A tsunami alert was in effect for hours in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines. “The earthquake could cause a tsunami that could hit Taiwan. A tsunami alert has been declared to urge residents of coastal areas to exercise caution,” read a warning message sent by the government to the Taiwanese.

The JMA issued a tsunami alert for the Okinawa Islands, in southwestern Japan, where waves of 3 meters or higher were possible. “Evacuate to higher ground and do not return,” public broadcaster NHK said. A tsunami of 30 centimeters did reach the island of Yonaguni, in the south of the country, and the waves also reached the island of Ishigaki.

There were also warnings about tsunamis in the Philippines. “Coastal areas in the Philippines on the Pacific Ocean are expected to experience high tsunami waves. 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. “The first tsunami waves are forecast to arrive between 8:33 am and 10:33 am. They may not be the largest and these waves can last for hours.”

The tsunami alarms were lifted around 4:20 a.m. Belgian time.


Hualien. — © AP

A landslide in Xiulin, eastern Taiwan.

A landslide in Xiulin, eastern Taiwan. — © AFP



© Wang via REUTERS


© AP

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