Powerful earthquake rocks Taiwan, death toll rising, 700 injured

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An earthquake rocked the entire island of Taiwan early Wednesday, killing seven, injuring hundreds, collapsing buildings in a southern city and sparking a brief tsunami warning for southern Japanese islands.

Taiwan’s fire department said seven people have died in the mountainous, sparsely populated eastern county of Hualien, where the earthquake’s epicenter was located. More than 700 people were injured in the incident.

At least 26 buildings have collapsed, with more than half in the city of Hualien. Nearly 80 people were trapped as rescue work continued, the government said. Fire authorities said about 60 of the people trapped were caught in a tunnel just north of Hualien city.

Video and images on social media showed buildings shaken off their foundations. A five-story building in lightly populated Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle.

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In the capital, Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the 9.6 mile quake at a 7.5 magnitude, while Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave it a magnitude of 7.7, up from 7.5 earlier. The effects of the earthquake were felt as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast of China, said Wu Chien-fu, the head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau.

A tsunami warning was issued for coastal areas of southwestern Japan’s Miyakojima and Yaeyama regions and the main island of Okinawa, Japanese public broadcaster NHK World reported. Waves had reached some areas and were more than 9 feet high. 

Train service across the island of 23 million people was suspended. In Taipei, children were seen going to school and the morning commute appeared normal.

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center initially said it was reviewing the earthquake to determine whether a tsunami was a threat to the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Alaska and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

“Tsunami NOT expected,” the agency posted on X minutes later.

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Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency also said there was no tsunami threat to the state.

The quake was believed to be the biggest in Taiwan since a temblor in 1999 caused extensive damage. Taiwan lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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