Strong earthquake strikes Taiwan, tsunami waves detected in Japan


A powerful earthquake struck off the east coast of Taiwan on Wednesday, rocking the entire island, collapsing buildings and prompting tsunami warnings in Japan and the Philippines.

The Japan Meteorological Agency originally forecast a tsunami of up to three metres for the southern island group of Okinawa after the very shallow quake hit.

A 30-centimetre tsunami reached Yonaguni Island about half an hour later, JMA said. Smaller waves were detected in other islands, it said. It later downgraded its forecast to waves of up to one metre. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre later said the threat of a tsunami had largely passed.

The Philippines Seismology Agency issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, urging them to evacuate to higher ground.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the preliminary magnitude as 7.2, then revised it to 7.7, while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.5, then 7.4. The epicentre was offshore 18 kilometres south-west of the eastern city of Hualien, Taiwan, and about 35 kilometres deep.

The US Geological Survey reported a second tremor of magnitude 6.5 hit nearby, 11km north-east of the city.

The head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau, Wu Chien-fu, said effects were detected as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast of China. Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei in the hour after the initial quake.

A five-storey building in lightly populated Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle. In the capital, Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes.

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