Four dead as Taiwan hit by strongest earthquake in 25 years with locals trapped in buildings and more than 50 injured

3 April 2024, 06:14 | Updated: 3 April 2024, 06:17

Taiwan has been hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.
Taiwan has been hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake. Picture: Alamy/X

By Jenny Medlicott

Taiwan has been hit by its strongest earthquake in 25 years, killing at least four people and injuring more than 50.

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The National Fire Agency said four people died in Hualien County. Hualien was the epicentre of the quake that struck around 8am on Wednesday.

The US Geological Survey put the earthquake at magnitude 7.4 on the Richter scale.

The quake, which has seen the collapse of buildings and resulted in landslides, led to tsunami alerts in neighbouring countries.

Taiwan's Central Weather Administration agency said the quake could be felt across the entire island nation, with further reports suggesting it could be felt as far as Shanghai in China.

Photos taken on the east coast of Taiwan, close to the epicentre of the tremor, show a large glass-paned building on the edge of collapse, with its foundations uprooted from the ground as it teeters on its side.

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A building on the edge of collapse.
A building on the edge of collapse. Picture: X
Building teetering at a 45 degree angle.
Building teetering at a 45 degree angle. Picture: Alamy

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

Rescue work is underway to reach people trapped in Hualien and other areas in Taiwan, as the National Fire Agency reported residents being trapped in tunnels.

At least 12 people were rescued from the Uranus Building in Hualien, as well as two people who were rescued from a trapped elevator in Zhongshan District and seven from the scene of a collapsed building in Xindian District in New Taipei City.

It is the strongest earthquake to hit the area in 25 years, after a deadly 7.7-magnitude quake hit in 1999, killing around 2,400 people.

More than 87,000 homes have been left without power in the aftermath of the quake, according to Taiwan electricity operator Taipower.

The first wave of a tsunami hit Japan’s southern islands with waves of up to three metres expected to reach larger areas of the southwestern coast. It was unclear if it caused any damage.

A map from the JMA showed the epicentre of the quake with an x.
A map from the JMA showed the epicentre of the quake with an x. Picture: JMA

Neighbouring countries issued tsunami alerts and urged residents to prepare to evacuate or retreat to safe zones.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in an update about two hours later that the tsunami threat "has now passed".

Other photos show that bridges and mountains have been swept away by landslides, with footage showing them coming down mountainsides into the ocean and valleys.

Train services across the island, populated by some 23 million people, were suspended amid the quakes.

Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei in the hour after the initial quake. The US Geological Society said one of the subsequent quakes was seven miles deep and had a magnitude of 6.5.

The Japan Meteorological Agency’s (JMA) disaster preparation account posted on X: “As of 09:01 on the 3rd, a tsunami warning has been issued. Tsunamis strike repeatedly. Do not leave your safe area until the warning has been lifted.”

Taipei resident Hsien-hsuen Keng said: "Earthquakes are a common occurrence, and I've grown accustomed to them. But today was the first time I was scared to tears by an earthquake. I was awakened by the earthquake. I had never felt such intense shaking before."

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.