Massive earthquake rocks Taiwan, killing 9 people and injuring more than 1,000

HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — The strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked Taiwan Wednesday morning, killing nine people, stranding dozens in quarries and a national park and sending some residents clambering out of the windows of damaged buildings.

The earthquake, which injured more than 1,000 people, struck just before 8 a.m. and struck off the coast of rural, mountainous Hualien County, where some buildings leaned at sharp angles and the ground floors were crushed. Just over 90 miles away in the capital Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and schools evacuated students to sports fields as aftershocks followed.

Rescue workers spread out in Hualien, looking for people who might be trapped, and used excavators to stabilize damaged buildings. The number of missing, trapped or stranded people fluctuated as authorities learned more people were in trouble and tried to locate or rescue them.

About 70 workers stranded at two quarries were safe, according to Taiwan’s National Fire Brigade, but roads to reach them were damaged by falling rocks. Six workers were to be flown out on Thursday.

In the hours after the earthquake, television showed neighbors and rescue workers lifting residents, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street. Some doors had melted shut from the shaking.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes and its population is among the best prepared. But authorities expected a relatively mild earthquake and issued no warnings. The final earthquake was powerful enough to frighten even people accustomed to such tremors.

“I’ve gotten used to (earthquakes). But today was the first time an earthquake brought me to tears,” said Hsien-hsuen Keng, who lives in a fifth-floor apartment in Taipei. “I woke up because of the earthquake. I had never felt such an intense tremor.”

At least nine people were killed in the earthquake, according to the Taiwanese fire brigade. Most of the fatalities were caused by falling rocks, including four people struck in Taroko National Park, the Central News Agency said. One died in a residential building that was damaged, the news agency said.

A small tsunami washed up on the southern Japanese islands, but caused no damage.

At least 1,011 people were injured. Authorities initially lost contact with 50 hotel workers in minibuses in the park after the earthquake crippled telephone networks; three employees walked to the hotel, while the others remained stranded. About two dozen tourists were also stranded in the park, the state news agency said.

The earthquake and aftershocks caused many landslides and damaged roads, bridges and tunnels. The National Legislature, a converted school built before World War II, and parts of the main airport in Taoyuan, just south of Taipei, also saw minor damage.

Hualien Mayor Hsu Chen-wei said 48 residential buildings were damaged in the city, which shares a name with the province. Hsu said water and electricity supplies are being restored.

Taiwan’s Earthquake Monitoring Agency said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2, while the US Geological Survey estimated it at 7.4. It struck about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Hualien and was about 35 kilometers (21 miles) deep. Several aftershocks followed.

Traffic along the east coast came to a virtual standstill after the earthquake, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways. Train service across the island of 23 million people was suspended, with some tracks twisted by the stress of the earthquake, as was subway service in Taipei, where parts of a newly constructed elevated line disintegrated but did not collapse.

The initial panic quickly subsided on the island, which prepares for such events with drills in schools and announcements via public media and mobile phones. Stephen Gao, a seismologist and professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said Taiwan’s preparedness is among the most advanced in the world and includes strict building codes and a world-class seismological network.

By midday, the subway station in the busy northern Taipei suburb of Beitou was once again buzzing with people heading to work and arriving to visit the hot springs or hike the mountain trails at the foot of an extinct volcano.

According to Chinese media, the earthquake was felt in Shanghai and provinces along China’s southeastern coast. China and Taiwan are about 160 kilometers (100 miles) apart.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said a tsunami of 30 centimeters (about 1 foot) was detected on the coast of Yonaguni Island about 15 minutes after the earthquake occurred. Smaller waves were measured on the islands of Ishigaki and Miyako. All warnings in the region had been lifted by Wednesday afternoon.

Taiwan lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Hualien was last hit by a deadly earthquake in 2018 that killed 17 people and destroyed a historic hotel. The worst earthquake in Taiwan in recent years occurred on September 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7, killing 2,400, injuring about 100,000 and destroying thousands of buildings.

The economic consequences of the earthquake have yet to be calculated. Taiwan is the leading manufacturer of the world’s most advanced computer chips and other high-tech products that are highly sensitive to seismic events. Parts of the electricity grid were shut down, potentially causing supply chain disruptions and financial losses.

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC, which supplies semiconductors to companies including Apple, said it has evacuated workers from some of its factories in Hsinchu, southwest of Taipei. Hsinchu authorities said water and electricity supplies to all factories in the city’s science park were functioning normally.


Bodeen and Mistreanu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press journalists Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Ken Moritsugu in Beijing, Lorian Belanger in Bangkok, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, and Fu Ting and Didi Tang in Washington contributed to this report.


This story has been updated to correct that the 70 people stranded are in quarries, not coal mines.

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