Several killed as strongest earthquake in 25 years hits Taiwan

A photo released by The Central News Agency (CNA) shows a collapsed building following a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan, 03 April.

A strong offshore magnitude-7.2 earthquake on Wednesday morning shook Taiwan, killing at least nine people and sparking tsunami warnings in Japan and the Philippines.

Official sources said over 800 people were injured and 127 remain trapped or stranded as 28 buildings collapsed due to the earthquake and more than 100 aftershocks of various magnitudes.

Local media, citing officials, reported that the dead included a truck driver and two hikers hit by falling rocks at the entrance to Taroko Gorge.

The strongest tremor to hit the island in 25 years struck at 7.58 am, 25 km off the coast of Hualien county, at a depth of 15.5 km, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration (CWA).

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which monitors seismic activity around the world, put the quake at M7.4 at a depth of 34.8 km.

The island experienced 123 aftershocks of varying intensity, including nine with a magnitude between 5 and 6, according to the CWA.

Images released by the state CNA news agency show leaning multi-floor buildings, and rescue services working to evacuate residents.

Photos from around the island also show cars crushed by rockfalls and blocked roads, crumbled buildings, a collapsed construction crane, and damage to a metro track.

Local media also reported a landslide in Xiulin, on the east coast of the island, and the collapse of a warehouse in New Taipei, which caused injuries to at least three people.

Aftershocks were ongoing, making rescue efforts difficult and causing hundreds of Taiwanese to remain outside instead of returning to their homes.

The quake was also strongly felt in Taipei, where buildings shook for more than a minute, and stones or bricks fell from many buildings, including the national memorial of former president Chiang Kai-shek.

Spanish researcher Rubén Almendros felt the earthquake in the capital’s Nangang district.

“It was the first time in my life that I felt an earthquake of such magnitude. The walls were shaking, books and lamps fell, and, when the main earthquake stopped, we had no electricity or water in the apartment,” he told EFE.

Around 308,200 homes were left without electricity supply, although according to data from the Taiwan Energy Company, the service has already been restored to 70 percent.

Metro lines in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung were suspended, according to CNA, but most have resumed service, aside from some sections of the tracks in Taipei.

In a Facebook post, President Tsai Ing-wen urged people to stay calm and avoid high-risk areas such as the seaside, mountains, and elevators.

A photo released and credit by The Central News Agency (CNA) shows a collapsed building following a magnitude 7.4 earthquake in Hualien, Taiwan, 03 April 2024.

China was ready to provide disaster assistance, said Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, according to state media outlet Xinhua.

The large earthquake caused other countries in the region to issue tsunami alerts.

Japanese authorities, who upgraded their estimate of the quake to M7.7, issued a tsunami warning for Okinawa prefecture for waves of up to 3 meters high, which also caused the temporary suspension of flights at Naha airport.

Officials said a 30-centimeter tsunami was observed at Yonaguni Island at 9.18 am, and Miyako Island at 10.50 am, but the advisory was then lifted, according to public broadcaster NHK. Officials warned residents to stay alert as more tremors are possible.

Philippine authorities also warned of “high tsunami waves” and urged people to immediately evacuate from coastal areas to higher ground.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center lifted its warning about 2.5 hours after the earthquake, saying “the tsunami threat has now largely passed.”

The earthquake is believed to be the biggest since the M7.6 temblor on Sep. 21, 1999, killed 2,416 people and destroyed more than 51,000 buildings.

Authorities warned of large aftershocks in the coming days.

Taiwan sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activity that is shaken each year by about 7,000 earthquakes, most of them moderate. 

BY: Usmana Kousar