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Disaster: Taiwan returns to work hours after 7.2 temblor leaves seven dead

Disaster: Taiwan returns to work hours after 7.2 temblor leaves seven dead

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Taiwan’s strongest earthquake rocking the entire island nation in recent history, measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale, left at least seven people dead, over 700 injured, and 77 stranded on Wednesday morning rush hours.

By noon, however, the metro station in the busy northern Taipei suburb of Beitou was again buzzing with people commuting to jobs and seniors arriving to visit the hot springs or travel the mountain paths at the base of an extinct volcano, the media reported.
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 US Geological Survey (USGS) said the Wednesday temblor, measuring 7.4, struck about 18 km south-southwest of Hualien and was about 35 km deep. Multiple aftershocks followed, one of which was 6.5 magnitude and 11.8 km deep. The earthquake triggered a tsunami warning that was later lifted.

Initial reports said in the capital, Taipei, schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some children covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.

Later, a five-story building in Hualien County, near the offshore epicenter, was left leaning at a 45-degree angle, with its first floor collapsed.

Taiwan’s national fire agency said seven people died in the quake, which struck just before 8 am. A local news outlet said three hikers died in rockslides in Taroko National Park and a van driver died after boulders hit the vehicle.

Official reports said 736 people were injured and 77 stranded. The quake and aftershocks also caused 24 landslides and damage to 35 roads, bridges, and tunnels. Television images showed neighbors and rescue workers lifting residents, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street.

Train service was suspended briefly across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in the capital, Taipei, where a newly constructed above-ground line partially separated.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said a tsunami wave of 30 cm was detected on the coast of Yonaguni island about 15 minutes after the quake struck. Smaller waves were measured in Ishigaki and Miyako islands.

The earthquake was felt in Shanghai and several provinces along China’s southeastern coast, according to Chinese media. China and Taiwan are about 160 km apart. China issued no tsunami warnings for the Chinese mainland and all such alerts in the region had been lifted by Wednesday afternoon.

The initial panic after the earthquake quickly faded 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 phones.

Taiwan’s worst quake in recent years struck on September 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7. It left 2,400 dead, injured around 100,000, and destroyed thousands of buildings.

The Taiwan stock exchange opened as usual on Wednesday, with the index wavering between losses and gains.


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