DTaiwan's strongest earthquake in 25 years rocked the East Asian island republic on Wednesday and damaged many buildings. Authorities in Taiwan and Japan issued tsunami warnings after the morning tremor. The Taiwan Meteorological Agency recorded a magnitude 7.2 earthquake at a depth of 15.5 kilometers near the city of Hualien on the island's southeast coast. The United States Earthquake Observatory (USGS) reported a magnitude of 7.4 in the area. In Japan, according to the media, the authorities were even talking about a magnitude of 7.7. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Prime Minister Chen Chien-jen were expected at the Central Emergency Command Center in New Taipei this morning.

The exact extent of the damage could not be predicted initially. However, according to official information, at least four people died and nearly 60 were injured. Among the dead were a truck driver, whose vehicle was reportedly hit by a rockfall while driving, and three hikers. This was confirmed by the island's national fire service. In addition, many buildings suffered massive damage. Bridges, tracks and highways were also heavily damaged: authorities reported more than 900 accidents of various types as of midday (local time).

Interim warning for a three meter high tsunami

In the eastern coastal city of Hualien, some buildings were severely damaged by the violent tremors, local media reported. The photos showed several houses collapsing and tilting. According to eyewitnesses, the earthquake was also clearly felt in the capital and its surroundings. Three people were injured in a warehouse collapse in New Taipei City, which surrounds the capital Taipei. Residents of the capital reported that furniture and dishes were broken in their houses and apartments. Public rail transport has been suspended in several major cities on the island of more than 23 million inhabitants. High-speed train services were also suspended.

Rescue workers are searching the wreckage for possible victims.

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7.4 on the Richter scale

A strong earthquake shakes Taiwan

Northeast of Taiwan, Japan, the earthquake triggered a three-meter tsunami warning for nearby islands in Okinawa Prefecture in southwestern Japan. Residents of the affected islands were urged to seek safety. Japanese media also reported a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. Authorities in the Philippines also issued a tsunami warning. High tsunami waves that could last for hours are expected, the National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. In several provinces of the island nation, people were asked to seek safety and leave coastal areas. A few hours after the earthquake, both countries canceled the warnings.

China, a large neighboring country, asked Taiwan for help. Chinese authorities are very concerned about the situation, said Zhu Fenglian, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, in Beijing on Wednesday. The mainland is monitoring the situation and is ready to provide disaster relief. It remained unclear whether Taiwan would accept Chinese aid. There is always tension between the two states, as Beijing considers the island part of China, even though Taiwan has had an independent and democratically elected government for decades.

TSMC, Taiwan's largest semiconductor maker, has suspended production, the Hsinchu City Industrial Park Authority said. The company reportedly evacuated workers from production during the earthquake. At the moment, the company is engaged in checking the condition of the machines. The earthquakes also damaged various roads in Taiwan. The state energy supplier said more than 308,000 households in Taiwan lost power due to the earthquake. Tens of thousands were still without electricity after that.

Taiwan was last hit by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake in September 1999. More than 2,400 people died during that time. Taiwan is located in an earthquake-prone zone on the border of the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate.

About 1,500 tremors occur in Japan each year. The country's strongest earthquake so far was recorded in March 2011 on the north-eastern coast of the country with a magnitude of 9.0. This triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing. The natural disaster also caused the cooling system of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to fail, and core meltdowns occurred in three of the six reactors.

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