Taiwan’s Deadly Quake: Building Collapse, Tsunami Alert, and Lingering Aftershocks

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A powerful earthquake struck off Taiwan early Wednesday, rocking the entire island and collapsing buildings. Japan issued a tsunami alert for the southern Japanese island group of Okinawa.

Pre-Dawn Tremor Causes Extensive Damage

At the break of dawn on Wednesday, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4, as per the US Geological Survey, jolted Taiwan. The epicenter was approximately 18 kilometers south-southwest of Hualien City, about 35 kilometers deep. The primary quake struck at 7:58 AM, sending shockwaves that rocked the entire island.

In Hualien, a lightly populated coastal city, a five-story building sustained severe damage, its first floor collapsing and the remaining structure listing at a precarious 45-degree angle. Across the island, buildings swayed, with tiles tumbling from aging structures in Taipei. Students were swiftly evacuated from schools, many wearing protective yellow head coverings and motorcycle helmets for additional protection amidst the ongoing aftershocks.

Transportation Impacted, Panic Averted

The earthquake caused widespread disruption to transportation, with train and subway services suspended across the island. In Taipei, a newly built above-ground subway line partially separated. Even the National Legislature, housed in a former school that predates World War II, sustained damage to its walls and ceilings.

Despite the significant impact and the morning rush hour, there was a notable absence of widespread panic on the island. Taiwan is accustomed to earthquakes, regularly conducting drills and issuing public safety alerts. Schools and government offices were given the discretion to cancel classes and work.

Tsunami Alerts Triggered, No Casualties Reported

The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings for the southern Japanese island group of Okinawa. The Japan Meteorological Agency detected a tsunami wave approximately 30 centimeters high on the coast of Yonaguni Island about 15 minutes after the quake struck. Smaller waves were measured in Ishigaki and Miyako islands. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces deployed aircraft to assess the tsunami impact and prepared shelters for potential evacuees.

No casualties have been reported in Hualien, an area previously ravaged by a deadly quake in 2018. However, authorities are still surveying the extent of the damage. Taiwan’s deadliest earthquake in recent times occurred in 1999, causing 2,400 fatalities and extensive destruction.

Aftershocks Persist, Scientists Monitor Impacts

Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei and across the island following the initial quake. The head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau, Wu Chien-fu, reported that the effects of the quake extended to even distant Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island near the Chinese mainland. The US Geological Survey noted that one of the subsequent tremors had a magnitude of 6.5.

The earthquake is believed to be the most severe in Taiwan since the destructive 1999 temblor. The island sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where tectonic plates converge, causing frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Scientists and emergency responders continue to monitor the situation, providing updates and coordinating relief efforts.

Data sourced from: cnbc.com