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Strong earthquake shakes Taiwan, triggers tsunami warnings in region – National |

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan shook the entire island on Wednesday morning, collapsing buildings in a southern city and triggering a tsunami that washed ashore the southern Japanese islands.

Taiwanese television channels showed footage of some collapsed buildings in the sparsely populated eastern city of Hualien, near the epicenter of the quake, and media reported that some people were trapped. A five-story building appeared to be heavily damaged, with the first floor collapsing and the rest standing at a 45-degree angle.

In the capital Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and in some newer office complexes. The strong quake knocked out power in several parts of the city, according to a Reuters witness.

Train traffic on the island of 23 million inhabitants was suspended, as was subway traffic in Taipei. But everything quickly returned to normal in the capital, the children went to school and the morning commute seemed normal.

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According to the Taiwan Central Meteorological Administration, the quake struck at 7:58 a.m. (2358 GMT) at a depth of 15.5 km (9.6 miles), just off the east coast of Taiwan. According to state media, it was the strongest quake to hit the island in 25 years.

The head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring office, Wu Chien-fu, said the impacts were felt as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island off the coast of China. In the hour after the first quake, several aftershocks were felt in Taipei.

Japan has issued an evacuation warning for the coastal areas of southern Okinawa Prefecture, which consists of several small islands. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which put the magnitude of the quake at 7.5, tsunami waves up to three meters high were expected to reach large parts of Japan’s southwest coast.

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A 0.3-meter-high tsunami hit Yonaguni Island at 9:18 a.m. (0018 GMT), JMA said. The agency said the waves also likely hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands.

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The Philippine Seismological Agency also warned residents of coastal areas in several provinces and urged them to evacuate to higher ground.

According to officials in British Columbia and the United States, the earthquake did not pose a tsunami threat to Hawaii or the west coast of North America.

According to Chinese state media, the quake was felt in Fuzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou and Ningde in China’s Fujian province.

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Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said the quake was the worst to hit the island since 1999, when a magnitude 7.6 quake killed about 2,400 people and destroyed or damaged 50,000 buildings. This was one of the worst earthquakes to hit Taiwan.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the earthquake reached an intensity of “upper 6” on Japan’s 1 to 7 intensity scale in Hualien, Taiwan.

In an Upper 6 earthquake, most unreinforced concrete block walls collapse, making it impossible for people to stand or move without crawling, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Taiwan lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the line of seismic faults that surrounds the Pacific Ocean, where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Japan accounts for about a fifth of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

On March 11, 2011, the northeast coast was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami. These events triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter century earlier.

Japan was rocked by its deadliest quake in eight years on New Year’s Day when a magnitude 7.6 quake struck Ishikawa Prefecture on the west coast. More than 230 people died in the quake, which completely or partially destroyed 44,000 houses. According to local authorities, five people remain missing.

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– With files from Associated Press and Global News

Click here to play video: “Japan approves $33 million for earthquake recovery efforts in devastated communities”

Japan approves $33 million for earthquake relief in devastated communities

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