Taiwan hit by strongest quake in 25 years; four deaths reported

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan on Wednesday, marking the island’s strongest tremor in at least 25 years. The quake resulted in four fatalities, injured hundreds, and prompted tsunami warnings for southern Japan and the Philippines, which were later withdrawn.

The government reported that the deaths occurred in the mountainous, sparsely populated eastern county of Hualien, near the quake’s epicenter, with 711 people injured.

According to the fire department, 77 individuals remain trapped, some in collapsed buildings in Hualien. Television stations in Taiwan broadcast images of buildings at precarious angles in Hualien, where the quake hit just offshore around 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) as residents headed to work and school. The Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan located the epicenter just off the east coast at a depth of 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles).

“It was very strong. It felt as if the house was going to topple over,” said Chang Yu-lin, a 60-year-old hospital worker in Taipei.

The presidential office announced that President-elect Lai Ching-te, who assumes office next month, planned to visit Hualien later Wednesday. Footage showed rescuers using ladders to assist individuals out of windows, while elsewhere, significant landslides triggered by the tremors carved through hillsides. The Taipei subway system experienced strong shaking, leading to a temporary shutdown to evacuate passengers, though service on most lines resumed shortly thereafter.

Japan’s weather agency, which recorded the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.7, reported that several small tsunami waves had reached parts of Okinawa in the southern prefecture. The Philippines’ seismology agency issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, advising evacuation to higher ground. Taiwan also issued a tsunami warning but reported no subsequent damage, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii later declared that the threat of damaging tsunami waves had passed.