Strong earthquake hits southern Taiwan; 1 killed, building collapses

Firefighters working at the site where a building collapsed following a 6.8-magnitude earthquake, in Yuli, Hualien county, Taiwan, on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS/TAIWAN CENTRAL EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTRE
Taiwanese rescuers retrieving a survivor from the rubble of a collapsed convenience store in Yuli, in Taiwan's Hualien county, on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE/TAIWAN CENTRAL EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTRE
Firefighters rescuing a person at the site where a building collapsed, in Yuli, Hualien county, Taiwan, on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS/TAIWAN CENTRAL EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTRE
Damage to a bridge in Hualien county is seen after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Taiwan on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE/HAULIEN COUNTY GOVERNMENT
A train that derailed following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake, in Dongli station in Hualien, on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: AFP/TAIWAN RAILWAYS ADMINISTRATION
A collapsed building is seen Yuli township in Hualien, after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck south-eastern Taiwan, on Sept 18, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the sparsely populated southeastern part of Taiwan on Sunday, killing at least one person, derailing train carriages, causing a convenience store to collapse and trapping people on a mountain.

The weather bureau said the epicentre was in Taitung county, and followed a 6.4 magnitude temblor on Saturday evening in the same area, which caused no casualties.

The US Geological Survey measured Sunday’s quake at a magnitude 7.2 and at a depth of 10km.

A worker at a cement factory in the town of Yuli died after equipment collapsed on him during the earthquake, Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency said.

Taiwan’s fire department said two people were trapped in a building housing a 7-11 convenience store that collapsed in Yuli, and two people had been rescued, while three people whose vehicle fell off a damaged bridge were rescued and taken to hospital.

Video footage posted by Taiwan’s Central News Agency showed panicked residents running towards the building, which had caved in and sent up a thick cloud of dust.

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said three carriages came off the rails at Dongli station in eastern Taiwan after part of the platform canopy collapsed. The fire department said one person was injured.

Photographs released by Central News Agency showed the train’s six carriages leaning at an angle in the station.

TRA said the 20 onboard passengers were evacuated and no injuries were reported.

Around 68 people are also trapped on the scenic Chike mountain area by a blocked road, though there are no injuries, the department added.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning for Taiwan after the tremor but later lifted the alert. Japan’s weather agency lifted a tsunami warning for part of Okinawa prefecture.

The quake could be felt across Taiwan, the weather bureau said. Buildings shook briefly in the capital Taipei and the southwestern city of Kaohsiung, with residents posting videos of chandeliers and paintings swaying on social media.

Science parks in the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung, home to major semiconductor factories, said there was no impact on operations.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said there was “no known significant impact for now”.

In one video posted online, a man said he was trapped on a bridge where the road at either end had collapsed into a twisted mess of tarmac and concrete.

“This is troublesome,” he could be heard saying. “The whole bridge is broken”.

In another Facebook post, a person named Ou Chin Te shared footage from the swimming pool on the 60th floor of The One – a skyscraper in Kaohsiung and Taiwan’s fourth-highest building.

The tremors had turned the pool into a wobbly mass of waves.

“It’s shaking super big, I’m on 60th floor, it’s so scary,” a laughing man could be heard saying in the video.

A 6.6-magnitude quake hit the same region on Saturday and there have been multiple tremors since, with minimal damage in what is a mountainous and sparsely populated rural region. But Sunday’s quake was much stronger.

The China Earthquake Network Centre said tremors were felt in coastal areas including Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen urged people to be vigilant for further aftershocks in the coming hours.

“Water and electricity supplies in some areas are also affected by the earthquake,” she wrote on Facebook. “The related disaster relief work is in full swing.”

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

The mountainous island sits on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through South-east Asia and across the Pacific basin.

Most of Taiwan’s population lives on the flat western coast and in the capital Taipei.

The scenic eastern coast is more remote and less populated but a major tourist draw. There are few international tourists in Taiwan these days because the island maintains mandatory Covid-19 quarantine for most arrivals.

Taiwan is regularly hit by quakes and most cause minimal damage but the island also has a long history of deadly tremors.

Hualien, a tourist hotspot, was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in 2018 that killed 17 people and injured nearly 300.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history. REUTERS, AFP

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