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Nine dead, hundreds injured in most powerful Taiwan quake in 25 years

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At least nine people were killed and more than 800 injured Wednesday by a powerful earthquake in Taiwan that damaged dozens of buildings and prompted tsunami warnings that extended to Japan and the Philippines before being lifted.

Officials said the quake was the strongest to shake the island in decades, and warned of more tremors in the days ahead.

“The earthquake is close to land and it’s shallow. It’s felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands,” said Wu Chien-fu, director of Taipei’s Central Weather Administration’s Seismology Center.

Strict building regulations and widespread public disaster awareness appear to have staved off a major catastrophe for the earthquake-prone island, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

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Wu said the quake was the strongest since a 7.6-magnitude struck in September 1999, killing around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Wednesday’s magnitude-7.4 quake hit just before 8:00 am local time (0000 GMT), with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) putting the epicentre 18 kilometres (11 miles) south of Taiwan’s Hualien City, at a depth of 34.8 kilometres.

Three people among a group of seven on an early-morning hike through the hills that surround the city were crushed to death by boulders loosened by the earthquake, officials said.

Separately, the drivers of a truck and a car died when their vehicles were hit by tumbling boulders, while another man died at a mine.

The National Fire Agency did not immediately offer details on the other three deaths but said all the fatalities had been in Hualien County, adding that 882 people had been injured without specifying how seriously.

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Social media was awash with shared videos and images from around the country of buildings swaying as the quake struck.

“It was shaking violently, the paintings on the wall, my TV and liquor cabinet fell,” one man in Hualien told broadcaster SET TV.

Dramatic images were shown on local TV of multi-storey structures in Hualien and elsewhere tilting after the quake ended, while a warehouse in New Taipei City crumbled.

The mayor there said more than 50 survivors had been successfully plucked from the ruins of the structure.

Local TV channels showed bulldozers clearing rocks along the main route to Hualien, a mountain-ringed coastal city of around 100,000 people that has been cut off by landslides.

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The main roads leading to the city pass through an extensive series of strongly built tunnels – some of them kilometres long – and officials said as many as 120 people could be trapped in vehicles inside.

“We must carefully check how many people are trapped and we must rescue them quickly,” president-elect and current Vice-President Lai Ching-te told reporters in Hualien.

Engineers were also working to repair the main railway track that runs south from the capital down the eastern seaboard, which had been cut off in several places.

President Tsai Ing-wen called for local and central government agencies to coordinate with each other and said the military would also be providing support.





Source link: Daily Trust/

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