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Taiwan Earthquake: Death toll climbs to 7, leaves 700 injured

Taiwan Earthquake: Death toll climbs to 7, leaves 700 injured

Taiwan was rocked by its most powerful earthquake in 25 years, registering a magnitude of 7.7 according to Japan’s meteorological agency, striking near Hualien on the eastern coast, claiming the lives of at least seven individuals and injuring over 700 others, widespread destruction, power outages, and landslides, with initial tsunami warnings issued for southern Japan and the Philippines.

The tremors, which commenced at 7:58 am local time, caused chaos and panic as residents and tourists alike scrambled for safety amid collapsing structures and aftershocks. Videos circulated on social media depicting rescuers pulling children from the rubble of residential buildings, while the city of Hualien itself bore witness to the devastation with a five-storey building heavily damaged, its first floor obliterated and the entire structure listing precariously at a 45-degree angle.

The transportation infrastructure suffered severe blows, with the Dachingshui tunnel becoming a grim trap for both people and vehicles. Train lines were severed, leaving commuters stranded, while schools and workplaces shuttered their doors across wide swathes of the city. Eyewitness accounts from Hualien revealed the terror of driving amidst falling rocks dislodged from nearby mountains, as well as the visceral fear induced by the relentless tremors.

Even Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, did not escape unscathed. Several individuals were rescued from a partially collapsed warehouse, and buildings across the city saw tiles raining down from their heights. While Japan's meteorological agency pegged the earthquake at 7.7 magnitude, Taiwan’s own monitoring agency recorded it as a 7.2, still making it the island’s most powerful quake since the devastating 1999 temblor that claimed thousands of lives.

The impact rippled beyond the immediate region, reverberating into the heart of Taiwan’s economy. TSMC, the country’s leading semiconductor manufacturer responsible for a significant portion of the world’s advanced semiconductors, was forced to halt production as its facilities evacuated amidst the chaos.

As the dust settled, more than 15 aftershocks, though decreasing in magnitude, continued to unsettle residents and authorities alike. The toll on infrastructure was evident, with buildings in central Taipei bearing visible scars, such as the Howard Plaza hotel, where damaged brickwork and dislodged signage bore testament to the quake's ferocity.

Initial tsunami warnings issued for regions as far-reaching as Okinawa prefecture in Japan and coastal areas of the Philippines. While these warnings were later downgraded, the spectre of disaster loomed large, especially given the recent memory of the magnitude-7.6 quake and subsequent tsunami that ravaged the Noto peninsula in Japan just three months prior.

Communities rallied together, with some residents of Okinawa seeking refuge on nearby US military bases, while others kept a vigilant eye on the sea from the vantage points of higher ground. Yet, the threat persisted, with Japan’s meteorological agency cautioning of potential aftershocks mirroring those felt in Taiwan over the coming week.

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TAGS:Earthquake in Taiwan
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