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Powerful quake rocks Taiwan: 4 killed, 60 wounded in worst tremor in quarter century

Videos and photos circulating on social media captured the moment buildings across Taiwan shook violently.

A devastating earthquake struck Taiwan on Wednesday, resulting in the deaths of at least four individuals and injuring nearly 60 others. The quake, which also caused significant structural damage, triggered tsunami alerts across Japan and the Philippines, though these warnings were later lifted.

Officials have described the earthquake as the most powerful to hit the island in decades, and anticipate further seismic activity in the coming days.

Wu Chien-fu, head of the Seismology Center under Taipei’s Central Weather Administration, noted that the quake’s impact was widespread due to its proximity to land and shallow depth. Taiwan’s strict building codes and heightened disaster preparedness likely prevented more extensive damage. The country, situated at the convergence of two tectonic plates, frequently experiences earthquakes.

The quake, with a magnitude of 7.4, occurred just before 8:00 am local time, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Its epicenter was located 18 kilometers south of Hualien City, at a depth of 34.8 kilometers. The disaster claimed the lives of three hikers and a truck driver, who were among the early casualties reported.

Videos and photos circulating on social media captured the moment buildings across Taiwan shook violently. In Hualien and other areas, structures were seen leaning dangerously, and a warehouse in New Taipei City collapsed. Efforts were made to clear blocked roads leading to Hualien, a city surrounded by mountains and home to approximately 100,000 people.

President Tsai Ing-wen has mobilized local and national agencies, including the national army, to assist in the response effort. The National Fire Agency confirmed the fatalities and reported that nearly 60 people had received medical treatment for injuries related to the quake.

Following the earthquake, tsunami warnings were issued in Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines, but were withdrawn after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center declared the immediate threat had passed. The earthquake briefly disrupted services, such as the metro in Taipei, and residents were advised to check for gas leaks.

The quake was also felt in China’s Fujian province and in Hong Kong. China, which views Taiwan as a part of its territory, expressed readiness to offer disaster relief assistance. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a leading chip manufacturer, experienced temporary disruptions in production, and construction work at new plant sites was suspended for the day.

Earthquakes are common in this region due to its geological location, but their impact varies depending on factors like the depth and location of the epicenter. The potential for damage from tsunamis, which are large and fast-moving waves, also depends on several variables.

Japan’s record-breaking 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March 2011, which led to a tsunami and a nuclear disaster at Fukushima, remains one of the most severe natural disasters in recent history. A significant earthquake also struck Japan’s Noto Peninsula on New Year’s Day this year, resulting in over 230 deaths, many of whom were victims of collapsed older buildings.

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