Scenes from eastern Taiwan following a powerful tremor.
Scenes from eastern Taiwan showing a partially-collapsed building in Hualien following a powerful tremor on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Image Credit: X | TVBS | AP


  • Earthquake measuring 7.2 magnitude hits Taiwan
  • Over 800 people injured from earthquake
  • At least 26 buildings have collapsed on island
  • Tsunami warnings now downgraded along China and Taiwan coasts
  • TSMC has evacuated some staff from production lines
  • Taiwan dollar, stocks response muted

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.

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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.

"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.

Taiwan television stations showed footage of buildings at precarious angles in the sparsely populated eastern county of Hualien, near the quake's epicentre.

TVBS reported some individuals, including a child, were rescued from a structure in Hualien.

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The earthquake, which occurred around 8 am local time (1 pm New Zealand time), shook the island significantly, resulting in building collapses in a southern city and prompting tsunami alerts for southern Japanese islands.

Taiwan's earthquake monitoring agency gauged the magnitude at 7.2, whereas both the Japan Meteorological Agency and the US Geological Survey recorded it as 7.5, with the quake's depth estimated at approximately 35 km.

Video footage depicted buildings in Hualien experiencing substantial tremors, with one multi-storey building, housing both businesses and residences, partially collapsing.

The earthquake also caused severe vibrations on a bridge, disrupting the morning commute for people in cars and on bicycles.

More than 87,000 homes are still without power following the tremors.

Tsunami warning up

Tsunami warnings and activation of sirens urged immediate evacuation for residents, although there was no tsunami threat to New Zealand, clarified the National Emergency Management Agency. Consequently, train services across the island were halted, along with subway operations in Taipei.

Although the quake struck on the opposite side of the island from the capital, its intensity was sufficient to cause items to fall off shelves in Taipei. Additionally, it triggered a landslide in a mountainous area, resulting in thick clouds of dust billowing into the air.

Updates from Nago, Okinawa, reveal a swift decline in sea water levels, indicating an imminent tsunami hazard. As a precautionary measure, numerous individuals are being evacuated from coastal areas, anticipating a tsunami of 3-5 meters (9-16 feet) to hit within the next 30 minutes.

Japan, Philippines cancel tsunami warning

Japan's weather agency said several small tsunami waves reached parts of the southern prefecture of Okinawa, and later downgraded the earlier tsunami warning to an advisory. It revised the magnitude to 7.7.

The Philippines Seismology Agency issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, urging them to evacuate to higher ground.

The quake was felt in Shanghai, a Reuters witness said.

Chinese state media said it was also felt in Fuzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou and Ningde in China's Fujian province.

This photo taken by Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) on April 3, 2024 shows a damaged building in Hualien, after a major earthquake hit Taiwan's east. Image Credit: AFP

Strong aftershocks

Moreover, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake and a subsequent 5.2 aftershock have recently rattled the region. Tsunami alerts have been raised in Taiwan, Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines.

China Earthquake Networks Center recorded five aftershocks of around 5 magnitude in Taiwan within an hour after the initial quake.

Flight operations suspended in Okinawa

Adding to the precautionary measures, the primary airport in Okinawa, Japan, has ceased flight operations in response to the tsunami warnings.

Operations at Naha Airport were suspended from 9:25 am local time (0025 GMT) as a precautionary measure, a transport ministry official stationed at the airport told AFP.

"Incoming flights need to divert" at the airport, located on the west coast of Okinawa Island, the official said.

A ministry official at another airport in the region, on Ishigaki Island, said flights were still running there.

"We inspected the airport after the earthquake and the tsunami alert. There was no abnormality and our airport is not closed," said the official in Ishigaki, adding that brief, moderate shaking had been felt at the airport.

Taiwan's high speed rail operator said no damage or injuries were reported on its trains, but noted trains will be delayed while it carries out inspections.

Southern Taiwan Science Park, where semiconductor giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co has a plant, said companies were operating without impact.

TSMC said its safety systems are operating normally.

"To ensure the safety of personnel, some fabs were evacuated according to company procedure. We are currently confirming the details of the impact," according to the company.

Shares of TSMC were down 1.4% in early trade, while Apple supplier Foxconn's stock fell more than 2% and shares of flat panel maker Au Optronics dropped 1.7%.