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Africa

Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years kills nine; 50 missing

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Taiwan’s biggest earthquake in at least 25 years killed nine people, injuring more than 800, while 50 went missing en route to a national park, authorities said, as rescuers used ladders to bring others to safety.

Television broadcast images of buildings tilted at precarious angles in the mountainous, sparsely populated eastern county of Hualien, near the epicentre of the 7.2 magnitude quake, which struck just offshore at about 8am this morning.

“It was very strong. It felt as if the house was going to topple,” said Chang Yu-lin, 60, a worker in a hospital in Taipei, the capital.

A woman who runs bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Hualien city said she scrambled to calm her guests who were frightened by the quake.

“This is the biggest earthquake I have ever experienced,” said the woman, who asked to be identified only by her family name, Chan.

Shaking from an earthquake near Taiwan’s eastern shore was felt across the island nation and parts of mainland China and Japan on Wednesday morning. The Wednesday quake was the strongest to hit the island nation in about 25 years.
Shaking from an earthquake near Taiwan’s eastern shore was felt across the island nation and parts of mainland China and Japan on Wednesday morning. The Wednesday quake was the strongest to hit the island nation in about 25 years.

The quake hit at a depth of 15.5 km (9.6 miles), just as people were headed for work and school, setting off a tsunami warning for southern Japan and the Philippines that was later lifted.

Video showed rescuers using ladders to help trapped people out of windows, while elsewhere there were massive landslides, as strong tremors in Taipei forced the subway system to close briefly, although most lines resumed service.

Fire authorities said they were slowly evacuating some of those trapped in tunnels near Hualien city, including two Germans.

But they had lost contact with 50 travellers aboard four minibuses heading to a hotel in a national park, Taroko Gorge, they said, without giving details. The government put the number of injured at 821.

“At present the most important thing, the top priority, is to rescue people,” said President-elect Lai Ching-te, speaking outside one of the collapsed buildings in Hualien.

The rail link to the area was expected to re-open on Thursday, Lai, who is set to take office next month, told reporters.

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