7.4-magnitude earthquake hits Taiwan but death toll is low

Taipei, Taiwan—A A 7.4-magnitude earthquake hits the east coast of Taiwan The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings as far away as Japan and the Philippines on Wednesday morning, killing nine people and trapping at least 143 others in the rubble.

The earthquake, the strongest to hit Taiwan in 25 years, struck southern Hualien County, a scenic and sparsely populated coastal area, at around 8 a.m. local time. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.4 and was felt as far away as Shanghai and China’s southeastern provinces. Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau recorded the earthquake as measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale.

Live camera footage and security cameras captured the moment a deadly 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan’s east coast on April 3. (Video: Reuters)

Taiwan is located on the Ring of Fire, a region of the pacific It is the most seismically active region in the world. The quake was felt across the island 200 miles from the epicenter. In Taipei, a shaking that lasted for more than a minute sent panicked residents out of their homes. Students were evacuated from the school and lined up along sidewalks and playgrounds. According to Taiwan’s National Fire Administration, more than 900 people were injured, most of them caused by falling objects.

Deadlier earthquakes that have occurred before

Attack more densely populated areas

Death toll from previous earthquakes

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Samuel Granados and Julia Ledoure/The Washington Post

Deadlier earthquakes that have occurred before

Attack more densely populated areas

Death toll from previous earthquakes

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Samuel Granados and Julia Ledoure/The Washington Post

Previously, deadlier earthquakes struck more people

densely populated areas

Death toll from previous earthquakes

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Samuel Granados and Julia Ledoure/The Washington Post

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Officials said it was the strongest earthquake to hit the island since a 7.6-magnitude quake in central Taiwan in 1999 that killed more than 2,400 people. Authorities enacted stricter building codes in the aftermath of that earthquake, one of the worst in the island’s recent history.

Those efforts could explain Wednesday’s relatively low death toll. Lu Chin-wen, an architect who was involved in reconstruction efforts after the 1999 earthquake, said that buildings built after the new regulations were sturdier, which may have helped. “Had the building been damaged but not destroyed, there would have been relatively few casualties,” he said.

On April 3, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan’s east coast, causing hundreds of injuries, building collapses, and landslides. (Video: Naomi Schanen, Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)

In recent years, municipal governments have carried out various forms of publicity activities Upgrade old buildings making them more resistant to earthquakes. Since 2019, the government has reviewed 36,000 buildings across the country built before 1999 and provided subsidies for upgrades.

Even in Hualien, one of Taiwan’s most earthquake-prone areas, residents were shocked by the intensity of the earthquakes. On social media, users posted photos of partially collapsed buildings leaning dangerously as rescuers raced to rescue those still inside. Local media reports also showed residents fleeing their homes through windows.

After the earthquake, 34-year-old Shi Yirong smelled the smell of a gas leak and quickly left her 16-story apartment in Hualien. She spent the day at a breakfast cafe with other panicked residents and planned to spend the evening at a friend’s house, where she could easily evacuate if needed. “I’m not going home today,” she said.

Another resident who runs a B&B, Liang Kaixiong, fled his home when the earthquake struck. “I was panicking. There hasn’t been one this big in a long time,” he said.

On April 3, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck the east coast of Taiwan, causing a building to tilt to one side. (Video: AP)

Lin Yude, 36, a former political campaign worker in Hualien, said his first reaction when the earthquake started was to evacuate all elderly people in their homes.

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“Hualien is an earthquake-prone place, but this earthquake immediately struck me as unusual because it was long and vibrated vertically, up and down,” he said.

Less than five hours after the earthquake, a total of 76 aftershocks occurred in Taiwan, some with magnitudes as high as 6.4. Commuters were left stranded as subway lines and the island’s high-speed rail system were suspended, leaving more than 300,000 households without power. Wu Jianfu, director of the Seismological Center of the Central Meteorological Administration, said that aftershocks of magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 may occur in the next three to four days.

Rescuers continued efforts overnight to free people trapped in the rubble, including in two quarries and a highway tunnel, officials said.

At least 24 landslides occurred across the island, paralyzing traffic on the east coast, cutting three highways and at least one bridge collapsing. Taiwan’s military has deployed cooperation with local governments in rescue efforts, while President Tsai Ing-wen has advised residents not to take elevators and to “pay more attention” to their own safety.

On Yonaguni, one of Japan’s Okinawa islands, an 11-inch tsunami struck 20 minutes after the earthquake, and Japanese authorities advised residents to evacuate to higher ground. The Japan Meteorological Agency subsequently downgraded the Okinawa tsunami warning to a tsunami warning, indicating that the tsunami intensity was not expected to be as high as initially estimated.

On April 3, after Okinawa Prefecture in Japan issued a tsunami warning, people evacuated to higher ground. (Video: AP)

Philippine officials also initially warned residents in coastal areas to move to higher ground. About three hours after the quake, Taiwanese officials lowered the tsunami warning level, and the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat “has largely passed.”

Taiwan has a population of more than 23 million and is an important manufacturing center for many of the world’s advanced computer chips. A spokesman for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) said some manufacturing plants have been evacuated and some operations have been suspended.

Wednesday’s nine casualties, all in Hualien, a popular tourist destination, were caused by falling rocks. Among them were three hikers and a worker working in Taroko National Park. Two drivers had their cars crushed by falling boulders; and one man was in a mine.

The earthquake occurred ahead of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day public holiday, when residents return home to pay homage to their deceased relatives and visit their graves. Taiwan’s Transportation Minister Wang Guocai said authorities will use boats to transport people to and from Hualien for the festival due to road congestion.

Inuma reported from Tokyo.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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