Strongest Earthquake in 25 Years Hits Taiwan; Buildings Collapse as Japan Removes Tsunami Warnings

Strongest Earthquake in 25 Years Hits Taiwan; Buildings Collapse as Japan Removes Tsunami Warnings

At least four killed in earthquake

At least four people are now reported to have been killed in Taiwan’s earthquake.

The national fire agency said four people died in Hualien County.

Hualien was near the epicenter of the quake that struck at about 8am on Wednesday.

Key events

More of the latest images of the damage seen in New Taipei City:

Damage to buildings in Xindian district of New Taipei City. Photograph: CNA/AFP/Getty Images
Emergency workers assisting a survivor after he was rescued from a damaged building. Photograph: CNA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers searching for survivors that might be trapped. Photograph: CNA/AFP/Getty Images

Damage and debris can be seen in the compound of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, a national monument and tourist attraction:

A barricade erected around debris at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei. Photograph: CNA/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian’s reporter Gregor Hunter on the latest as he reports from Taipei:

Damage was visible on some buildings in central Taipei on Wednesday morning, such as outside the Howard Plaza hotel, where the earthquake had damaged brickwork on its exterior and dislodged some of the lettering on the hotel’s sign.

Mike Hung Hsu, a guest of the hotel, said he was woken up by the earthquake during a visit to Taiwan from the US.

“I’ve never felt this kind of earthquake in LA, even though we have earthquakes pretty often,” he said.

“I used to live in Taiwan, in my memory we never had an earthquake like this one.”

He said his family had cancelled a planned sightseeing trip to Yilan county, near Hualien on the island’s east coast, as there was no way to travel by public transport.

Rescue workers searching for survivors trapped in a damaged building in New Taipei City. Photograph: CNA/AFP/Getty Images

Our reporter in Taiwan, Chi Hui Lin, has sent us this translated notice that Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has posted on her Facebook page detailing the country’s response to the disaster:

Central Disaster Response Centre has been set up and various ministries are reporting on the situation in various places, so please pay attention to the various information released by the officials at any time, and please check carefully for any earthquake-related news.

I would also like to remind everyone that some trains on the Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR) have been delayed. For those who are commuting, please pay attention to the status of the MRT and Taiwan Railway operations in various places.

In addition, there were a number of aftershocks this morning, and I would like to remind everyone not to take the lift for the time being, and to pay more attention to safety.

Our latest video report on Taiwan’s earthquake:

Buildings collapse, people rescued as powerful earthquake rocks Taiwan – video

As we continue to get updates on what is happening in Hualien, which is near to the epicentre of the earthquake, our reporter Gregor Hunter paints a picture of what the town is like in normal times:

Hualien is a charming beach town sandwiched between Taiwan’s mountain ranges on the island’s east coast.

It regularly attracts tourists from elsewhere in the island for the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, including the nearby Taroko Gorge national park, and also hosts a wealth of Taiwanese aboriginal culture nestled alongside its backpacker hostels and surf shops.

The city’s position on the windswept east coast affords it little shelter behind the mountain range that shields the rest of Taiwan from incoming typhoons from the Pacific Ocean.

There are only a few road and rail connections and no stops on the high-speed rail service that links cities along the island’s more industrialised west coast, though its coastal highways make it a favourite of cyclists.

The city also plays home to a major air force base, from where Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets regularly scramble to intercept Chinese aerial incursions.

Hualien’s last big quake was in 2022, when a 6.9-magnitude quake toppled buildings and derailed a train, killing one person and cutting off power for thousands of residents.

26 buildings reported “to tilt or collapse”

A fire department official in Hualien county – near the epicentre of the earthquake – has told Agence France-Presse that “two buildings had collapsed and some people are believed to be trapped”.

In a televised national briefing, Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said 26 buildings were reported “to tilt or collapse”, though it gave no details on the location of the structures.

Philippines cancels tsunami warning

Rebecca Ratcliffe

Rebecca Ratcliffe

The Philippines’ seismology agency has cancelled its tsunami warning, saying “Based on available data of our sea level monitoring stations facing the epicentral area, no significant sea level disturbances have been recorded since 07:58am up until this cancellation.”

It added that “any effects due to the tsunami warning have largely passed” and that the agency had cancelled all tsunami warnings issued for this event.

Key points

Here are some basic points on what we know so far about Taiwan’s earthquake:

  • The earthquake struck at 7:58 am local time, about 18km south-southwest of Hualien

  • It was about 35 km (21 miles) deep, according to Associated Press

  • Japan has put the earthquake at 7.7 magnitude

  • Tsunami warnings and advisories had been issued – but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that the threat from Taiwan’s earthquake “has now passed”.

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