9 dead, over 800 injured in earthquake in Taiwan

New Delhi, Apr 3: On Wednesday morning, Taiwan’s east coast was rocked by a strong 7.4 magnitude earthquake, sparking widespread panic and triggering tsunami alerts across the region.

Taiwanese officials have confirmed nine deaths, with 800 individuals injured and 127 trapped in tunnels. Of these, 77 individuals remain trapped inside the Jinwen and Qingshui tunnels beneath the mountains in Hualien county, while another 50 people are stuck in four minibuses en route from central Hualien City to the nearby Taroko National Park. Over 100 aftershocks have been recorded thus far, adding to the ongoing challenges.

Rescuers are engaged in relentless efforts to extract survivors from numerous collapsed structures, yet the threat of further casualties’ looms. In Hualien City, some buildings teeter precariously, posing significant risks. An official from the local fire department emphasized the formidable obstacles faced by rescue teams. He stated that the unstable nature of the buildings requires rescuers to carefully assess each move, ensuring their own safety before attempting to extricate trapped individuals.

The earthquake’s epicentre was located approximately 18 kilometres south of Hualien city. This seismic event stands as Taiwan’s most severe earthquake in twenty-five years, as confirmed by seismology authorities. In the aftermath, numerous structures in Hualien have been partially destroyed, their leaning structures serving as a stark reminder of the quake’s sheer intensity.

Videos emerging from the capital Taipei depict scenes of chaos as buildings sway violently, hurling objects off shelves and causing furniture to topple. Meanwhile, in Taiwan’s rugged interior, social media footage reveals massive landslides triggered by the earthquake, with the full extent of damage yet to be assessed.

Some media and social reports suggest bridges in the mountains collapsed or were swept away by landslides. There is also a video of very large landslides coming down mountainsides not just into the ocean but into valleys as well.

Local media broadcasts showcase collapsed residential buildings and frantic evacuations of homes and schools. Additionally, stores have been thrown into disarray, with vehicles smashed and merchandise strewn about, highlighting the widespread impact of the seismic event.

Hualien, Taiwan’s largest city situated on the eastern coast of the island, is renowned for its rugged mountainous landscape. Currently, all Taiwan Railway services heading to Hualien have been halted due to landslides in the region.

Following the earthquake’s initial impact, Japanese authorities issued a tsunami advisory for the Okinawa island chain and instructed residents in southwestern Japan to evacuate coastal areas. However, the Japanese Meteorological Agency swiftly lifted the tsunami warning thereafter.

Despite the warning being lifted, officials continue to urge caution as tide levels remain unpredictable. Fortunately, waves did not reach the anticipated height of 3 meters (9.8 feet) in some regions.

Similarly, the Philippines, located south of Taiwan, initially declared a tsunami alert for its northern coastline but later revoked it. Filipino officials cancelled the alert after observing no significant disturbances in sea levels for several hours post-quake.

Wu Chien Fu, director of Taipei’s Seismology Center, underscored the earthquake’s severity, noting its proximity to land and shallow depth. He stated, “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.”

The quake struck at 07:58 local time, and its shallow depth of 15.5 kilometres has raised concerns. At least nine aftershocks, with magnitudes of 4 or higher, have been recorded since the initial tremor.


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