GA multi-story residential building in eastern Taiwan's Hualien leans eerily toward the street. It could change at any moment. At least that's how it seems. A strong earthquake left a picture of devastation in many places on the East Asian island on Wednesday morning (local time). There are dead, injured and completely destroyed cars and buildings. Two Germans were temporarily trapped in the tunnel. Hours after the earthquake, the death toll is at least nine. The number of victims is expected to continue to rise.

A little before eight in the morning, an earthquake shook the entire island. It had a magnitude of 7.2, according to Taiwan, and was the strongest in nearly 25 years. Its epicenter was just a few kilometers from Hualien. A US earthquake monitoring station recorded a magnitude of 7.4. A magnitude of 7.7 was even measured in Japan. More than 100 aftershocks were recorded around Hualien alone, even eight hours after the earthquake.

In the early evening (local time), authorities reported 9 deaths and more than 800 injuries. Dozens of people were still believed to be trapped in tunnels and buildings. Authorities said the two Germans were released from the tunnel later Wednesday night. Details were not yet known.

“I have never felt an earthquake like this since I moved from the capital Taipei to the earthquake-prone coastal city three years ago,” a Hual resident told the German Press Agency. The full extent of the disaster could not be predicted until an hour after the tremors.

A memory of an almost forgotten disaster

According to himself, the man was in the office when the ground began to shake. Some of his colleagues tried to lean against the walls and did nothing. “We have never seen such a terrible incident before,” said the 54-year-old. Memories came to him: “I thought of the terrible experience of the great earthquake in 1999.” At the time, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake caused widespread destruction in the middle of Taiwan. There were more than 2,400 deaths.

Rescue workers are searching the wreckage for possible victims.

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7.4 on the Richter scale

A strong earthquake shakes Taiwan

Taiwan is located on the edge of two tectonic plates – Eurasia and the Philippines. With more than 23 million inhabitants, the island is therefore at high risk of earthquakes. After the 1999 disaster, the government revised its guidelines to make buildings more earthquake-resistant. In addition, Taipei took the example of Japan, which experienced earthquakes, and adopted disaster prevention measures. At the same time, the government poured more money into earthquake monitoring and built stations to measure real-time ground activity across the country.

Tsunami warnings in several countries

According to eyewitnesses, the earthquake was also clearly felt in and around the capital, Taipei. In New Taipei, which surrounds the capital, three people were injured in a warehouse explosion. Residents of the capital reported that furniture and dishes were broken in their houses and apartments. Several large cities temporarily suspended public transport. Express train traffic was also temporarily suspended. Tens of thousands of households lost electricity.

Taiwan, China, Japan and the Philippines issued several hours of tsunami warnings. The warnings were later relaxed and then withdrawn. 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.

Authorities in the Philippines also issued a tsunami warning. The National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said high tsunami waves were expected that could last for hours. In several provinces of the island nation, people were asked to seek safety and leave coastal areas.

China offers help

In neighboring China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, the earthquake was a major news item on state television. Chinese authorities are very concerned about the situation, said Zhu Fenglian, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing. The mainland is monitoring the situation and is ready to provide disaster relief. It remained unclear whether Taiwan would accept Chinese aid. There are always tensions between the two states over Beijing's territorial claims, even though Taiwan has had an independent and democratically elected government in power for decades.

The earthquake also had an impact on the economy: for example, Taiwan's important semiconductor manufacturer TSMC stopped production, the Hsinchu City Industrial Park Authority said. The company reportedly evacuated workers from production during the earthquake. Other companies also temporarily stopped work. The state energy supplier said more than 308,000 households in Taiwan lost power due to the earthquake. Tens of thousands were temporarily without power even after that.

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