Taiwan Earthquake: Death Toll Climbs to 9, More Than 1,000 Injured

The strongest earthquake in a quarter-century rocked Taiwan Wednesday morning, resulting in a death toll of nine people and leaving more than 1,000 injured. The quake struck just before 8 a.m. local time and was centered off the coast of rural, mountainous Hualien County. Buildings in the area leaned at severe angles, with ground floors crushed, while in the capital Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings, and schools evacuated students to sports fields as aftershocks followed.

Rescue efforts were immediately initiated in Hualien, with teams searching for people trapped in damaged buildings. Roads to reach stranded individuals were hindered by falling rocks, with some 70 workers stranded at two rock quarries, later confirmed to be safe. However, damages to roadways prevented immediate access to them, with plans for airlifting six workers the following day.

Television footage showed residents and rescue workers assisting people, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street. Despite Taiwan’s frequent seismic activity and its population’s preparedness, this earthquake, initially expected to be mild, induced fear even in those accustomed to such events.

The earthquake resulted in at least nine fatalities, mainly caused by falling rocks, with one person dying in a damaged residential building. Additionally, a small tsunami reached southern Japanese islands but caused no damage. Over 1,000 injuries were reported, with initial communication difficulties causing concern for stranded individuals.

The quake and subsequent aftershocks triggered landslides, damaging roads, bridges, and tunnels. Transportation services, including train and subway operations, were suspended, causing significant disruptions. Hualien Mayor Hsu Chen-wei reported damage to 48 residential buildings, with efforts underway to restore water and electricity supplies.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency recorded the quake as magnitude 7.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey measured it at 7.4. The event caused traffic standstills along the east coast, and the quake’s economic impact, particularly on Taiwan’s high-technology sector, is yet to be fully assessed.

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