Magnitude 7.2 tremor strikes; Japan tsunami alert issued


A powerful earthquake struck off Taiwan on Wednesday, rocking the entire island, collapsing buildings and prompting tsunami warnings in Japan and the Philippines.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast a tsunami of up to three meters for the southern island group of Okinawa after the very shallow earthquake hit. A 30-centimeter tsunami reached Yonaguni Island at about half an hour later, JMA said. It said waves likely also hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands.

A partially collapsed building in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, on Wednesday.Credits: TVBS/AP

The Philippines Seismology Agency issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, urging them to evacuate to higher ground.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the preliminary magnitude as 7.2, then revised it to 7.7, while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.5, then 7.4. The epicenter was offshore 18 kilometers south-west of the eastern city of Hualien, Taiwan, and about 35 kilometers deep.

The US Geological Survey reported a second tremor of magnitude 6.5 hit nearby, 11km north-east of the city.

The head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau, Wu Chien-fu, said effects were detected as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast of China. Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei in the hour after the initial quake.

Another partially collapsed building in Hualien, Taiwan.Credits: TVBS/AP

A five-storey building in lightly populated Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle. In the capital, Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei. But things quickly returned to normal in the capital, with children going to school and the morning commute appearing to be normal.

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