Taiwan hit by devastating quake: Seven dead, scores trapped

In Taiwan's deadliest earthquake in over two decades, seven individuals lost their lives on Wednesday, while rescuers worked tirelessly to free 77 people trapped in the debris of collapsed structures and tunnels. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, struck off the coast near the eastern county of Hualien, sending shockwaves throughout the region at approximately 8 a.m. local time.

Publication: 03.04.2024 - 11:53
Taiwan hit by devastating quake: Seven dead, scores trapped
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Dramatic footage aired on television showed buildings in Hualien, a mountainous and lightly populated area close to the quake's epicenter, leaning dangerously. The quake, felt strongly across the island, prompted immediate rescue efforts, with firefighters using ladders to safely evacuate people.

Chang Yu-lin, 60, a Taipei hospital worker, described the quake's intensity, fearing the collapse of her house. Similarly, a bed-and-breakfast owner in Hualien, identified only by her surname Chan, recounted the terror among her guests, marking it as the most severe earthquake she had ever experienced.

The quake's depth was reported at 15.5 km, occurring just as residents were beginning their daily routines. It led to tsunami warnings for southern Japan and the Philippines, which were later withdrawn. In Taipei, the tremors temporarily halted subway services, and significant landslides were reported in various locations. About 60 of the 77 reported trapped were in a tunnel north of Hualien, including two Germans caught in a separate tunnel. The total injured tallied to 736, as per official reports.

President-elect Lai Ching-te emphasized rescue operations as the immediate priority, alongside efforts to restore the rail link to the affected area by Thursday. Despite the damage, Taiwan's air force anticipates a quick return to service for six slightly damaged F-16 fighter jets stationed at a key military base.

In international reactions, Japan's weather agency recorded a higher magnitude of 7.7 for the quake and reported minor tsunami waves in Okinawa, while Philippine officials urged coastal evacuations. The quake was felt as far away as Fujian province in China and Shanghai.

Taiwan's infrastructure largely withstood the quake, with electricity mostly restored and no damage reported to its two nuclear power plants. The high-speed rail service announced inspections but no injuries. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, a key supplier to global tech giants, evacuated some facilities as a precaution but reported no significant impact.

The quake is the largest Taiwan has faced since a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in 1999, which resulted in approximately 2,400 deaths. Weather officials rated Wednesday's quake at an "Upper 6" on the intensity scale, indicating severe structural damage and a significant impact on the population's ability to move safely.

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