WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2024

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years leaves 9 dead, hundreds injured

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years leaves 9 dead, hundreds injured

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in at least 25 years killed nine people on April 3 and injured more than 900, while 50 hotel workers went missing en route to a national park, the authorities said, as rescuers used ladders to bring others to safety.

Taiwan television stations showed footage of buildings standing at precarious angles in Hualien, where the 7.4-magnitude quake struck just offshore at about 8 am.

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

 woman who runs a bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Hualien City said she scrambled to calm her guests who were frightened by the quake.

“This is the biggest earthquake I have ever experienced,” said the woman who asked to be identified by her family name, Chan.

The quake struck at a depth of 15.5km, just as people were headed for work and school, setting off a tsunami warning for southern Japan and the Philippines that was later lifted.

Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said all the fatalities had been in Hualien county.

Three people among a group of seven on an early-morning hike through the hills that surround the city were crushed to death by boulders loosened by the earthquake, officials said.

Separately, the drivers of a truck and a car died when their vehicles were hit by tumbling boulders, while another man died at a mine.

The agency did not immediately offer details on the other three deaths.

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years leaves 9 dead, hundreds injured

The fire authorities said they had already evacuated some 70 people trapped in tunnels near Hualien city, including two Germans.

But they had lost contact with 50 workers aboard four minibuses heading to a hotel in a national park, Taroko Gorge, they said, and rescuers were looking for them.

Another 80 people are trapped in a mining area, though it was not immediately clear if they were inside a mine.

The government put the number of injured at 946.

“At present, the most important thing, the top priority, is to rescue people,” said President-elect Lai Ching-te, speaking outside one of the collapsed buildings in Hualien.

The rail link to the area was expected to reopen on April 4, Mr Lai, who is set to take office in May, told reporters.

President Tsai Ing-wen called for local and central government agencies to coordinate with each other and said the military would also be providing support.

“I’m deeply grateful for the messages of support we have received from around the world, and to our first responders for their life-saving work,” she said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

It was the strongest quake to hit the island in 25 years, local media said.

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years leaves 9 dead, hundreds injured

A video showed rescuers using ladders to help people out of windows, while elsewhere, there were massive landslides as strong tremors in Taipei forced the subway system to close briefly, although most lines later resumed service.

Taiwan’s air force said six F-16 fighter jets had been slightly damaged at a major base in the city from which jets are often scrambled to see off incursions by China’s air force, but it expected the aircraft to return to service very soon.

Wu Chien-fu, director of Taipei’s Central Weather Administration’s Seismology Centre, warned that the authorities are not ruling out that “there will be earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.5 to 7 in three days which will be relatively close to the land”.

Japan’s weather agency said several small tsunami waves reached parts of the southern prefecture of Okinawa, and later downgraded the earlier tsunami warning to an advisory. It revised the magnitude to 7.7.

The US Geological Survey put the quake at 7.4.

Check-in resumed at Okinawa’s main Naha airport, where flights had been suspended following the quake. TV footage showed people being allowed to check in again later in the day.

The Philippines Seismology Agency cancelled a tsunami warning in the country’s north after issuing it earlier, but few people in the lightly populated northern regions appear to have responded to the orders.

Taiwan also issued a tsunami warning but reported no damage from such waves, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii later said the risk of damaging tsunami waves had largely passed.

Aftershocks could still be felt in Taipei, with more than 50 recorded, weather officials said.

Chinese state media said the quake was felt in China’s south-eastern province of Fujian, while a Reuters witness said it was also felt in the commercial hub of Shanghai.

Taiwan’s electricity operator Taipower said power had mostly been restored, adding that the island’s two nuclear power stations were not affected by the temblor.

Taiwan’s high-speed rail operator said no damage or injuries were reported on its trains, but added that trains will be delayed while it carries out inspections.

Taipei residents received warnings from their local borough chiefs to check for any gas leaks.

A major supplier of chips to Apple and Nvidia, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), said it had evacuated some fabrication plants and safety systems were operating normally.

“To ensure the safety of personnel, some fabs were evacuated according to company procedure,” the semiconductor giant said in a statement, adding later that the employees had begun to return to work.

Taiwan’s benchmark share index closed down at 0.6 per cent, largely brushing off the quake’s impact, while TSMC’s Taipei-listed shares ended down 1.3 per cent.

Taiwan’s official central news agency said the quake was the biggest since 1999 when a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed about 2,400 people and damaged or destroyed 50,000 buildings.

Taiwan weather officials said the intensity of this latest earthquake in Hualien county was at the second-highest level of “Upper 6” on an intensity scale from 1 to 7.

In an Upper 6 earthquake, most unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse and people find it impossible to remain standing or move without crawling, the Japan Meteorological Agency says.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

Japan was rocked by its deadliest quake in eight years on New Year’s Day when a 7.6-magnitude temblor struck in Ishikawa prefecture, on the western coast. More than 230 people died in the quake that left 44,000 homes fully or partially destroyed.

On March 11, 2011, the country’s northeast coast was struck by a 9-magnitude earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami. Those events triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chornobyl a quarter of a century earlier. 

Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in 25 years leaves 9 dead, hundreds injured The Straits Times

Photo By Reuters