Taiwan: Dead and injured after severe earthquake

Eastern Taiwan has been shaken by a severe earthquake. At least four people were killed and several were injured. Seismologists speak of the strongest earthquake in the region in 25 years.

The strongest earthquake in a quarter of a century occurred in Taiwan at around 8 a.m. (local time). At least four people died, the national fire authority said. The casualties were reported in Hualien County. At least 50 other people were injured.

The earthquake was felt throughout Taiwan. Taiwan’s meteorological agency recorded a magnitude 7.2 quake southeast of the coast near Hualien at a depth of 15.5 kilometers. The earthquake monitoring station in the USA (USGS) reported a magnitude of 7.4 in the area, meaning the epicenter was 18 kilometers south of the city of Hualien.

The director of the Seismological Center in Taipei, Wu Chien-fu, spoke of the worst earthquake in Taiwan in 25 years. Aftershocks reached a magnitude of up to 6.5.

Train and subway traffic disrupted

As early images show, a five-story building in Hualien was severely damaged. In the Taiwanese capital Taipei, tiles fell from the roofs of older houses. Schools took their students to sports fields and provided them with yellow protective helmets.

Train services were initially suspended throughout the island, which has a population of 23 million, as was subway service in Taipei, which has since been resumed. People were urged to check for possible gas leaks.

Damage was also reported from other parts of the country. The state-owned energy supplier reported that more than 308,000 households lost power due to the quake. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Chen Chien-jen were expected at the central emergency control center in New Taipei, which surrounds the capital Taipei, this morning.

Taiwan’s important semiconductor manufacturer, TSMC, initially halted production after the quake. However, the employees who were evacuated after the quake have now been able to return to their jobs.

Operations at Naha Airport in the region were temporarily suspended but later resumed.

Tsunami warnings ended

The quake initially triggered tsunami warnings on the self-governing island as well as in parts of southern Japan and the Philippines. Later, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in the US said the tsunami threat had largely passed.

Smaller tidal waves had previously reached the islands of Yonaguni, Ishigaki and Miyako, which belong to the southern Japanese vacationer paradise of Okinawa, as the Meteorological Authority announced.

Repeated earthquakes in Taiwan

Taiwan is regularly shaken by earthquakes because tectonic plates collide in the region. In 1999, the deadliest earthquake in Taiwan’s history occurred. Around 2,400 people died as a result of the tremors with a magnitude of 7.6.

There are about 1,500 tremors every year in Japan. The country’s most severe earthquake to date was recorded in March 2011 with a magnitude of 9.0 off the country’s northeast coast. It triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing. The natural disaster also resulted in the failure of the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and a core meltdown occurred in three of the six reactors.

China offers support to Taiwan

China offered help to Taiwan. Authorities in China are very concerned about the situation, said Chinese Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian. The mainland is monitoring the situation and is ready to offer disaster assistance.

It is unclear whether Taiwan will accept China’s help. There are always tensions between the two states because Beijing counts the island as part of China, even though a democratically elected government has been in power in Taiwan for decades.


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