Taiwan: Rescue efforts continue after earthquake

Rescue efforts are taking place in Taiwan after a powerful earthquake struck off its east coast on Wednesday, killing at least four people.

The 7.4 magnitude quake caused multiple buildings to collapse in Hualien, the city closest to the epicentre.

The strongest tremor to hit the island in 25 years was also felt as far as Taiwan’s mountainous interior, which was rocked by huge landslides.

In the capital Taipei, footage showed buildings shaking violently.

“The earthquake is close to land and it’s shallow. It’s felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands… It’s the strongest in 25 years,” said Wu Chien Fu, the director of Taipei’s Seismology Centre.

The National Fire Agency said three have died at a trail around Taroko National Park, named after a landmark gorge just outside Hualien.

More than 50 people have been injured, with some trapped in buildings and tunnels around the city, the agency added.

Map of Taiwan earthquake

Taiwanese chipmaking giant TSMC said it has evacuated some of its factories in Hsinchu and southern Taiwan for its staff’s safety, but it added that its safety systems are operating normally. TSMC is a major producer of semiconductors for tech firms including Apple and Nvidia.

Apple supplier Foxconn did not immediately respond to BBC’s request for comment.

Earlier, the earthquake set off tsunami warnings on the island and its neighbouring countries.

TVBS A partially collapsed building in Hualien, TaiwanTVBSA partially collapsed building in Hualien city

In Taipei, footage on local media outlets show collapsed residential buildings and people being evacuated from their homes and schools. The impact of the earthquake has also smashed vehicles and thrown items inside stores in disarray, according to clips aired by local broadcaster TVBS.

Power cuts and internet outages have been reported across the island, according to internet monitoring group NetBlocks.

Reuters A view of a landslide after an earthquake hit just off the eastern coast of TaiwanReutersThe earthquake has unleashed landslides in Taiwan’s very mountainous interior

Wednesday’s earthquake hit at 07:58 local time (23:58 GMT) at a depth of 15.5km and has set off at least nine aftershocks at magnitude 4 or larger. The earthquake’s epicentre is located about 18km (11 miles) south of Hualien, according to the US Geological Survey.

Hualien is located on Taiwan’s east coast, in a sprawling, mountainous region. Cities in the area are sparsely populated. With major roads and rail lines connecting Hualien to the rest of Taiwan now down, rescue teams will likely have to enter the area by air.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan, killing 2,400 people and destroying 5,000 buildings.

Reuters Inside an apartment building in New Taipei CityReutersInside an apartment building in New Taipei City

In neighbouring Japan, authorities had earlier warned that tsunami waves of up to 3m were expected to reach large areas of its southwestern coast.

The Japan Meteorological Agency agency later downgraded the warning, but has asked residents to remain “vigilant for aftershocks with similar intensity” for about a week.

The Philippines’ seismology agency also issued a tsunami warning shortly after the quake hit, urging residents to evacuate to higher ground – which it later cancelled.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in an update about two hours after the quake hit that the tsunami threat “has now passed”.

Chinese state media said tremors were felt in parts of China’s south-eastern Fujian province.

* Additional reporting by Peter Hoskins in Singapore

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