Taiwan suffers most powerful earthquake in 25 years

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Rescuers prepare in front of a building collapsed by an earthquake in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, on April 3, 2024. AP

The strongest earthquake in a quarter of a century in Taiwan was felt during rush hour on the morning of Wednesday, April 3, causing at least seven deaths and 736 injuries, as well as the collapse of some 30 buildings, according to an initial assessment by the national fire fighting agency. Most of the damage occurred in the city of Hualien on the island’s east coast, just a few kilometers from the epicenter. The tremors were also felt in Hong Kong and as far away as China’s coastal provinces, some 350 kilometers from the epicenter, notably Fujian, where violent shaking was reported by the local media.

In Taiwan, all security and rescue services, including the army, were immediately mobilized. A tsunami warning was also issued on the island, in the archipelagos of southern Japan and in four provinces of the Philippines. But a few hours after the earthquake, the risk of a tsunami seemed to have passed, with only small waves recorded in Taiwan and southern Japan, where no injuries or damage were reported. No serious damage was reported in the late morning in the Philippines either, where residents on the north coast had initially been ordered to evacuate to higher ground.

According to Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency, it reached a magnitude of 7.2, while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.4. The quake struck around 18 kilometers southwest of Hualien at a depth of around 15 kilometers. Taiwan lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, an earthquake-prone fault line at the junction of tectonic plates around the Pacific Ocean.

“We were alerted by the phone alarm, but we felt the earthquake a few seconds later because we’re the area closest to the epicenter,” Vicky Huang, a school teacher in Fuli, a small town in Hualien province, told Le Monde. “My friends [in the city] in Hualien had to protect themselves under tables and in door frames because they were so badly shaken, but they’re all safe and sound.”

Landslides

The earthquake caused landslides and the collapse of a large section of freeway. Landslides also closed several tunnels in this mountainous part of Taiwan. In Taipei, the capital located in the northwest of the island and where most structures are built to high earthquake-proof standards, the interiors of many buildings, including the Legislative Yuan, were more or less severely damaged. Roofs collapsed and a small section of a new overhead metro line broke away.

But the initial panic, which at first resulted in heavy traffic jams, quickly dissipated. Students were evacuated from the schools, which had just opened, to the sports fields, following a well-established routine.

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The article is in Dutch

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