Taiwan: Scores trapped as video shows moment country hit by biggest earthquake in 25 years

3 April 2024, 00:24 | Updated: 3 April 2024, 20:21

More than 130 people are trapped after Taiwan's strongest earthquake in 25 years caused buildings to collapse, landslides to crash down from mountainous areas and widespread power outages.

Taiwan's earthquake monitoring agency said Wednesday morning's quake was magnitude 7.2, while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.4 and Japan's meteorological agency put it at 7.7.

Nine people have died and at least 1,011 have been injured after the quake struck in eastern Taiwan's Hualien County during morning rush hour at 7.58am local time (12.58am UK time), Taiwan's National Fire Agency (NFA) has said.

United Daily News in Taiwan reported three hikers died in rockslides in Taroko National Park and a van driver died in the same area after boulders hit the vehicle.

Meanwhile, 143 people remain trapped heading into the night - including 47 hotel staff who were travelling in four minibuses in the national park.

The authorities said earlier they had lost contact with those trapped in the minibuses after the quake downed phone networks.

There are 24 tourists trapped in the same area, and a further 64 people are stuck in the Heping mining area with seven others trapped in Hejin (Renhe) mining area, according to the NFA, as one person was stranded on the Jhu-ilu Trekking and Hiking trail.

It comes after 77 people who were trapped underground in the Dachingshui and Jinwen tunnels in Hualien County were rescued.

Rescue efforts have since continued well into the night after the quake and aftershocks caused 24 landslides and damage to 35 roads, bridges and tunnels.

Read more: Videos capture moment quake struck

The epicentre of the initial earthquake was about 11 miles southwest of Hualien and about 22 miles deep.

A five-storey building in Hualien was heavily damaged. The first floor collapsed, leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle.

Traffic along the east coast was brought to a virtual standstill, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways in the mountainous region.

Rocks and clouds of dust have also been seen crashing down from mountainous regions with roads and buildings situated below.

Meanwhile, buildings have been seen balanced precariously at odd angles after the initial quake.

Footage from inside a news studio has shown lights swinging around on the ceiling as the room shakes. A news presenter is seen steadying herself by holding onto a screen as she appears to report on what is happening.

Other footage shows a man in a rooftop swimming pool as the earthquake causes the water to sway from side to side.

In the capital Taipei, in the north of the island, tiles fell from the roofs of older buildings and within some newer office complexes.

It came as more than 87,000 households in Taiwan were without power, according to the island's electricity supplier.

There were also concerns that the earthquake could lead to supply chain disruption of semiconductor chips from the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) - the main contract chipmaker for companies like Apple and Nvidia - after they briefly evacuated some of their factories.

Train services across Taiwan - which is home to 23 million people - were suspended, as was the metro.

The national legislature in Taipei, a converted school built before the Second World War, also had damage to walls and ceilings.

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.

Emily Feng, a correspondent with National Public Radio in Taiwan, told Sky News: "In Taipei my building has been swaying for the past couple of hours, there's still aftershocks, the last one was just a few minutes ago.

"People are relatively used to earthquakes because Taiwan lies right on a major geographical fault line.

"There are earthquakes basically every month or so... this of course was a quake on a much larger scale.

"But people remained relatively calm because they are used to these sorts of natural disasters."

Ms Feng added that authorities are now looking at how to get aid into Hualien and also why an emergency alert system did not go off across the island.

She continued: "Some people got texts telling them the earthquake was coming. The majority of people, including myself, did not.

"Authorities are trying to figure out why that malfunctioned."

Meanwhile, Taipei resident Hsien-hsuen Keng said: "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. 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".

The earthquake led to a small tsunami in some coastal areas of Japan, but warnings were later lifted.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said his country stands ready to support Taiwan following the quake.

Japan's meteorological agency described the earthquake as very shallow, which can cause greater damage.

The agency also said people "must be vigilant" for aftershocks, which could be of similar intensity for about a week.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said there has been no report of injury or damage in Japan.

He urged residents in the Okinawa region to stay on high ground until all tsunami advisories were lifted.

The Philippines Seismology Agency also urged residents in coastal areas of several provinces to evacuate to higher ground.

Chinese media confirmed the earthquake was felt in Shanghai and several provinces along China's south-eastern coast.

China and Taiwan are about 100 miles apart. China issued no tsunami warnings for the Chinese mainland.

Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei in the hour after the initial quake. The US Geological Society said one of the subsequent tremors was seven miles deep and had a magnitude of 6.5.

Taiwan lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a line of seismic faults where most of the world's earthquakes occur.

Taiwan's worst quake in recent years struck in 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7, causing 2,400 deaths, injuring around 100,000 and destroying thousands of buildings.

In March 2011, a 9 magnitude earthquake was the strongest in Japan's history - triggering a massive tsunami and the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.