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7.4 earthquake strikes eastern coast of Taiwan; 4 dead, hundreds injured and another 70+ trapped in Hualien

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — A powerful earthquake measuring 7.4 magnitude struck Taiwan on Tuesday, followed by multiple large aftershocks and a tsunami that washed up on part of Japan.

The quake struck on the island’s east coast at a depth of about 21 miles. It hit about 11 miles south-southwest of Hualien City. It struck just before 5 p.m. California time, which is 8 a.m. Wednesday in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s national fire agency said four people died in Hualien County and hundreds were injured. The local United Daily News reported three hikers died in rockslides in Taroko National Park near the offshore epicenter.

A powerful earthquake measuring 7.4 magnitude struck Taiwan on Tuesday, according to the USGS.

A second big quake measuring 6.5, believed to be an aftershock, struck just north of that area about 10 minutes later. That was followed by multiple aftershocks measuring between 5.2 to 5.7.

Japan issued a tsunami alert for the southern Japanese island group of Okinawa.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said a tsunami wave of about 1 foot was detected on the coast of Yonaguni island about 15 minutes after the quake struck. JAMA said waves likely also hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands. Japan’s Self Defense Force sent aircraft to gather information about the tsunami impact around the Okinawa region and were preparing shelters for evacuees if necessary.

The threat passed later with no reports of serious damage in Japan from waves.

American authorities said the tsunami was not expected to reach Hawaii, Guam or the U.S. mainland.

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Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency measured the magnitude as 7.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey put it at 7.4.

Television showed buildings in Taiwan’s eastern city of Hualien shaken off their foundations. The quake could be felt in the capital Taipei.

A five-story building in 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 in some newer office complexes, while debris fell from some building sites. Schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some also covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei, where a newly constructed above-ground line partially separated. The national legislature, a converted school built before World War II, also had damage to walls and ceilings.

Traffic along the east coast was at a virtual standstill, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways in the mountainous region. Those caused damage to vehicles, though it wasn’t clear if anyone was hurt.

Despite the quake striking at the height of the morning rush hour just before 8 a.m., the initial panic faded quickly on the island, which is regularly rocked by temblors and prepares for them with drills at schools and notices issued via public media and mobile phone.

Authorities said they had only expected a relatively mild quake of magnitude 4 and accordingly did not send out alerts.

Still, the earthquake was strong enough to scare people who are used to such shaking.

“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 said. “I was awakened by the earthquake. I had never felt such intense shaking before.”

She said her fifth-floor apartment shook so hard that “apart from earthquake drills in elementary school, this was the first time I had experienced such a situation.”

Hualien was last struck by a deadly quake in 2018, which collapsed a historic hotel and other buildings. Taiwan’s worst quake in recent years struck on Sept. 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7, causing 2,400 deaths, injuring around 100,000 and destroying thousands of buildings.

The earthquake was felt in Shanghai and several provinces along China’s southeastern coast, according to Chinese media. China and Taiwan are about 100 miles apart. China issued no tsunami warnings for the Chinese mainland.

Residents of China’s Fujian province reported violent shaking, according to Jimu News, an online outlet. One man told Jimu that the shaking awakened him and lasted about a minute.

In the Philippines, residents along the northern coast were told to evacuate to higher ground, but no major tsunami was reported about three hours after the quake.

Villagers in the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Isabela were asked not to return to their homes until the tsunami alert was lifted, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Teresito Bacolcol said.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said there has been no report of injury or damage in Japan. He urged the residents in the Okinawa region to stay on high ground until all tsunami advisories are lifted. He cautioned people against disinformation and urged them to stay calm and assist others.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii or the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. About three hours after the earthquake, it said the threat had largely passed for all areas with waves being reported only in Taiwan and southern Japan.

Taiwan lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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