Powerful earthquake rattles Taiwan, killing at least 9; more than 130 trapped

A major earthquake rocked the east coast of Taiwan early Wednesday, rattling buildings across the island, killing at least nine people and causing a tsunami that came ashore on Japan’s southern islands, authorities said.

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The earthquake monitoring service in Taiwan classified the earthquake at magnitude 7.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey put it at 7.5, according to The Associated Press. It later was revised to magnitude 7.4 by the USGS. The quake was the largest to hit the island since a magnitude 7.7 quake hit the island in September 1999.

US ‘stands ready to provide any necessary assistance,’ officials say

Update 9:45 a.m. EDT April 3: White House officials said Wednesday that they are monitoring reports of the earthquake in Taiwan and its possible impact on Japan.

“The United States stands ready to provide any necessary assistance,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “All those affected are in our prayers.”

Dozens of people are believed to be trapped after the earthquake, which claimed at least nine lives and left hundreds more injured.

— Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Images of damage

Update 7:57 a.m. EDT April 3: Photos of the damage left behind by the earthquake show buildings tilting, broken rail lines, collapsed roads and emergency crews searching for victims.

— Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Death toll rises to at least 9

Update 6:11 a.m. EDT April 3: Taiwan’s fire department is reporting that nine people have died and 934 others have been injured in Taiwan.

Five of the dead - including three hikers on a trail - died from falling rocks, The BBC reported.

According to officials in Taiwan, 131 people remain trapped in Hualien County on the eastern coast of Taiwan.

At least 77 people are trapped inside the Jinwen and Qingshui tunnels under mountains in Hualien county, fire officials said. Two people are said to be trapped in the Chongde tunnel in Taroko National Park, and 50 people are trapped in four minibuses that were traveling from central Hualien City to nearby Taroko National Park, the BBC is reporting.

As of 1 p.m. local time, roads were impassable due to damage and fallen rocks, The New York Times reported.

A bridge leading to the Daqingshui Tunnel appears to have completely collapsed, according to the Times.

— Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

At least 4 killed in Taiwan, authorities say

Update 12:21 a.m. EDT April 3: Taiwan’s national fire agency said that four people died in Hualien County as a result of Wednesday’s earthquake, according to The Associated Press.

A hiker was among the people killed, CNN reported. The local United Daily News reported three hikers died in rockslides in Taroko National Park near the epicenter of the quake, according to the AP.

Philippines’ authorities cancel tsunami warnings

Update 11:42 p.m. EDT April 2: Authorities in the Philippines have canceled all tsunami warnings, according to The New York Times. Officials said that monitoring stations in the archipelago have not detected any significant sea level disturbances.

No deaths reported in Taiwan

Update 11:21 p.m. EDT April 2: No deaths have been reported on Wednesday after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake rattled Taiwan, The New York Times reported.

Rescuers have responded to collapsed buildings in Hualien and there is a report of one person trapped in an elevator in nearby Nantou, according to the newspaper.

Earthquake rattles Taiwan residents

Update 11:12 p.m. EDT April 2: Even though residents in Taiwan are used to earthquakes, Wednesday’s quake rattled the island’s residents.

“Earthquakes are a common occurrence, and I’ve grown accustomed to them. But today was the first time I was scared to tears by an earthquake,” Taipei resident Hsien-hsuen Keng told The Associated Press. “I was awakened by the earthquake. I had never felt such intense shaking before.”

9 landslides close roads in Hualien

Update 10:29 p.m. EDT April 2: There were at least nine landslides on the Suhua Highway along the east coast of Taiwan in Hualien, according to The New York Times. Taiwan’s Central News Agency said part of the road has collapsed and the highway is currently closed.

Hong Kong residents feel tremors

Updated 10:08 p.m. EDT April 2: Hong Kong’s weather forecast agency said it had received more than 100 reports of tremors after the earthquake hit Taiwan, The New York Times reported. The tremors were similar to the vibrations of a passing truck, the agency stated.

Philippines advises evacuation from coastal areas

Updated 9:57 p.m. EDT April 2: Residents living in the coastal areas of 23 provinces in the Philippines were advised to immediately move to higher ground or move farther inland, The New York Times reported.

The first tsunami waves were expected to reach the islands between 8:33 a.m. and 10:33 a.m. local time, according to the newspaper.

Officials said the first waves to reach the coast “may not be the largest” and could continue for several hours.

Coastal areas stretching north to south in the archipelago nation, but not the capital Manila, “are expected to experience high tsunami waves” based on tsunami wave models, The Manila Times reported.

Tsunami warnings downgraded in parts of Japan

Update 9:46 p.m. EDT April 2: Japan’s meteorological agency downgraded its tsunami warning to advisories for Miyako island, the Yaeyama region and Okinawa’s main island, The New York Times reported.

USGS: Tsunami threats possible in China, Guam

Update 9:42 p.m. EDT April 2: The U.S. Geological Survey forecast tsunami threats of 3 to 9.8 along some of the Taiwan and mainland China coasts, The New York Times reported. Smaller tsunami waves of less than a foot are possible from Guam and Indonesia to Vietnam, the USGS said.

Taiwan experiences power outages; flights to Okinawa canceled

Update 9:36 p.m. EDT April 2: The New York Times reported that the cutting of power and internet outages have been reported in parts of Taiwan after the earthquake, according to NetBlocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity.

Service on Taiwan’s high-speed rail was suspended Wednesday, while classes in Hualien County schools were suspended.

Nippon Airlines has suspended all flights to and from Naha airport on the main Okinawa island, in addition to flights from Miyako and Ishigaki islands, according to the newspaper.

Original report: Japan’s meteorological agency forecast a tsunami of up to 9.8 feet.

The earthquake rumbled through Taiwan at 7:58 a.m. local time and could be felt in the capital city of Taipei, according to the AP.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the earthquake was off the coast of Hualien on the eastern side of the island, The New York Times reported. Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration also recorded an aftershock of 6.5 in magnitude, according to the newspaper.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said that tsunami waves nearly a foot high had already started hitting the shore on Yonaguni Island in southern Japan at 9:14 a.m. local time, the Times reported. According to NHK, such waves carry power equal to about 440 pounds, according to the newspaper.

The tsunami began hitting Japan’s southern island groups about 15 minutes after the quake struck near Taiwan, according to the AP. Waves came ashore at Ishigaki island at 9:32 a.m., the Times reported.

The Japan Meteorological Agency added that waves were likely to hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands, the news organization reported.

Residents on those islands, including the Okinawa group, were told to leave the coastal areas as soon as possible, according to the Times. NHK reported that tsunamis were expected to hit the islands shortly after 10 a.m. local time with waves reaching 10 feet.

Footage from Taiwan television stations showed footage of collapsed buildings in Hualien, according to Reuters. The quake could be felt as far away as Shanghai in mainland China, the news outlet reported.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes, according to CNN. In 2018, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit near Hualien, killing 17 people and injuring more than 300 others, the cable news outlet reported.

Wednesday’s earthquake is the strongest to hit Taiwan since a 7.7 magnitude quake hit 93 miles south of the capital city of Taipei in 1999, CNN reported. The earthquake killed 2,400 people and injured more than 10,000, according to the news outlet.

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