Most powerful earthquake in 25 years hits Taiwan

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – A devastating earthquake, the most powerful to hit Taiwan in the last quarter-century, resulted in the entrapment of numerous individuals in highway tunnels on Wednesday. The 7.4 magnitude quake, which originated 11 miles south of Hualien city, claimed at least nine lives and left over 900 injured.

The quake, which was followed by several strong aftershocks, was felt across the island, including in the capital, Taipei. The National Fire Agency (NFA) of Taiwan reported that the death toll had risen to nine, with 934 individuals injured, although the severity of these injuries was not specified.

Emergency responders have rescued 75 individuals trapped in various tunnels in Hualien County, but as of 7 a.m. Eastern Time, 137 people remain trapped. Among those still trapped are 50 employees of the Silk’s Place Hotel Taroko, who were traveling in four minibuses. Contact has not been made with these individuals, who are listed as trapped.

In addition to the human toll, the earthquake caused significant structural damage. Buildings collapsed in Hualien County, thousands of homes lost power, and landslides and rockfalls forced the closure of a major highway. The majority of those trapped are in two road tunnels in northern Hualien County.

The spokesperson for Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration warned of potential aftershocks as high as magnitude 7 until the end of the week. Initial tsunami warnings were issued for Taiwan, southern Japan, and the Philippines, though these were later lifted.

Taiwan’s outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen has ordered her administration to understand local impacts as soon as possible and provide necessary assistance. The island, located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is prone to earthquakes due to its geographical location. This quake is the strongest since 1999, when a 7.7 magnitude quake hit south of Taipei, killing 2,400 people and injuring 10,000 others.