Strong earthquake shakes Taiwan, death toll rises, 700 injured

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An earthquake struck the entire island of Taiwan early Wednesday. Seven people died, hundreds were injured, buildings collapsed in a southern city and triggered a brief tsunami warning for the southern Japanese islands.

According to the Taiwan Fire Department, seven people died in the mountainous, sparsely populated east of Hualien county, where the epicenter of the earthquake was. More than 700 people were injured in the incident.

At least 26 buildings have collapsed, more than half of them in the city of Hualien. The government said almost 80 people were trapped during the rescue work. Firefighters said about 60 of the trapped people were trapped in a tunnel north of the city of Hualien.

Videos and images on social media showed buildings being shaken from their foundations. A five-story building in sparsely populated Hualien appeared to be badly damaged, with the first floor collapsing and the rest standing at a 45-degree angle.

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A building collapsed in Taiwan

A building is seen at an angle following a strong earthquake in Taiwan on Wednesday. (TVBS Taiwan via AP)

In the capital Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and in some newer office complexes.

The US Geological Survey put the 9.6-mile quake at a magnitude of 7.5, while Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency reported a magnitude of 7.7, up from 7.5 previously. The earthquake’s effects were felt as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island off the coast of China, said Wu Chien-fu, the head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring office.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the coastal areas of the southwestern Japanese regions of Miyakojima and Yaeyama as well as the main island of Okinawa, Japanese public broadcaster NHK World reported. The waves had reached some areas and were more than 9 feet high.

Train services across the entire island of 23 million inhabitants were suspended. In Taipei, children were seen walking to school and the morning commute seemed normal.

In Taiwan, people build almost on their sides

A building that was almost on its side after an earthquake in Taiwan. (TVBS)

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center initially said it was assessing the earthquake to determine whether a tsunami posed a threat to the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Alaska and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

“Tsunami NOT expected,” the agency posted X minutes later.

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The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency also said there was no tsunami threat to the state.

The quake was believed to be the strongest in Taiwan since an earthquake in 1999 caused widespread damage. Taiwan lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a series of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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