Big earthquake on Taiwan’s east coast felt across island: reports of damage and casualties

Story still being revised and updated: 12:58 pm. Four people have died, and 98 are injured.

Many people heading to work and school around Taiwan this morning had their morning commute interrupted when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast, causing shockwaves that shut down train and metro services in the capital Taipei and other cities.

According to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration, the earthquake struck at 7:58 am, at a depth of 15.5 kilometers, 25 kilometers south-southeast of Hualien County Hall. While the CWA measured the earthquake at 7.2, Japan’s weather service and the USGS measured a magnitude of 7.5.

The earthquake was felt as a level 6 in Hualien County, and level 5 in Yilan County, Greater Taipei, Taoyuan City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, Taichung City, and Changhua County.

According to the Central Disaster Response Center, 26 buildings have been reported collapsed or damaged, including 15 in Hualien County.

The east coastal highway (Highway 9) is damaged in several places and is impassable between Yilan and Hualien.

Rockfalls have damaged vehicles and caused injuries on the Central Cross Island Highway and Northern Cross-Island Highway. A truck driver died after sustaining a serious head injury. Three people died after being hit by falling rocks while hiking.

Taiwan Railway Administration said that all services between Jiaoxi, Yilan County, and Fenglin, Hualien County are suspended. A large boulder damaged tracks between Hanben and Heping, but the full extent of damage is yet to be determined.

The damaged road and rail infrastructure comes one day before the annual Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, when families traditionally go back to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors.

As of 9:30 am, a total of 250 earthquake-related reports have been made to emergency services in Taipei City, and city hospitals have reported two serious injuries and 11 people with minor injuries.

National power supplier, Taipower, reported that a total of 354,534 households had suffered power loss, but by noon, around 95% had power restored.

As of 10:44 a.m., a total of 40 aftershocks have been felt, ranging from magnitude 3.4 to 6.5.

According to the CWA, the earthquake is the largest to hit Taiwan since the Jiji Earthquake, September 21, 1999, which left 2,415 people dead and 11, 305 injured.

collapsed building in Hualien City
Collapsed building in Hualien City.
collapsed building in Hualien City
Collapsed building in Hualien City. At 1:00 pm, 22 people have been rescued from the building and one remains trapped. Four people were injured and all were conscious when rescued.
broken crane boom on high-rise construction site
broken crane boom on construction site in Xinzhuang District, New Taipei City.
car damaged by falling boulders
Car damaged by falling rocks on Central Cross-Island Highway (Highway 8).
boulder and damaged railway tracks
A fallen boulder seriously damaged railway tracks between Hanben and Heping stations on the east coast railway line.
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