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7.5-magnitude earthquake hits near Taiwan, Japan, Philippines tsunami warnings

A major 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan’s east on Wednesday morning, prompting tsunami warnings for the self-ruled island, parts of southern Japan, and the Philippines.

The quake, officially the strongest in 25 years, hit just before 8:00am local time, 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 km.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency initially warned for tsunami waves as high as three metres (10 feet) for remote Japanese islands in the region, including Miyakojima island.

In Taiwan, authorities issued a tsunami warning via text message “to remind people in coastal areas to be vigilant and take strict precautions and pay attention to the dangers caused by sudden surges in waves”.

The initial earthquake was felt across Taiwan, with AFP reporters from the southern Pingtung county to the north in Taipei reporting strong shaking sensations.

The aftershocks, including another 6.5-magnitude earthquake near Hualien, were also felt in Taipei.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has now said that the tsunami threat from a major earthquake in Taiwan “has now passed”.

Footage and images emerging from the Asian territory show varying degrees of destruction.

Some show half-fallen large buildings in Hualien, near the epicentre, with severe damage, while another shows a bridge violently shaking.

Local media has reported people trapped in buildings, but not yet reports of deaths or injuries.

Buildings collapse after earthquake strikes Taipei, Taiwan

Some footage to emerge shows numerous, large landslides.

In the capital, the metro briefly stopped running but appeared to resume within an hour.

Residents were warned to check for gas leaks.

“I wanted to run out, but I wasn’t dressed. That was so strong,” Kelvin Hwang, a guest at a downtown hotel who sought shelter in the ninth-floor lift lobby, told the AFP.

Officials said the earthquake was the strongest felt on the island in decades.

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

“It’s the strongest in 25 years since the (1999) earthquake.”

A 7.6-magnitude quake hit Taiwan in September 1999, killing around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Wu warned that authorities are not ruling out that “there will be earthquakes with magnitude of 6.5 to 7 in three days which will be relatively close to the land”.

“The public should pay attention to relevant warnings and messages and be prepared for earthquake evacuation.”

Japan, Philippines, China impacted

Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, and China were all officially listed as being impacted by the disaster.

officials in Japan and the Philippines swiftly isued tsunami warnings however The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has since said that the tsunami threat from the earthquake in Taiwan “has now passed”.

The Philippines Seismology Agency warned residents in some coastal areas to evacuate to higher ground.

People in areas of the Philippines have been warned of “high tsunami waves” and and have been urged to evacuate coastal areas following the quake in neighbouring Taiwan.

“The people in the coastal areas of the following provinces are strongly advised to immediately evacuate to higher grounds or move farther inland,” the state seismology institute said in an advisory.

Coastal areas in 23 provinces from the north to the south of the archipelago nation, but not the capital Manila, “are expected to experience high tsunami waves” based on tsunami wave models, it added.

The first tsunami waves were expected to hit this afternoon, which “may not be the largest, and these waves may continue for hours”.

“Owners of boats in harbours, estuaries or shallow coastal water of the above-mentioned provinces should secure their boats and move away from the waterfront,” it said.

“Boats already at sea during this period should stay offshore in deep waters until further advised.”

Tsunami warnings for southern Japanese islands were triggered soon after the quake, but have since been downgraded.

“Evacuate!” a banner on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK read on Wednesday morning.

“Tsunami is coming. Please evacuate immediately,” an NHK anchor also said, according to AFP.

“Do not stop. Do not go back.”

Remote Japanese islands near Taiwan, including Miyakojima island, were initially expected to experience tsunami waves as high as three metres.

Flights were also suspended at the main airport in Japan’s southern region of Okinawa.

Operations at Naha Airport were suspended from 9:25am local time, shortly after the quake, as a precautionary measure.

A transport ministry official stationed at the airport told AFP: “Incoming flights need to divert”.

Chinese state media reported that the quake was felt as far away as its Fujian province.

More to come …


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