Massive earthquake leaves 9 dead, over 900 injured

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – Taiwan experienced the most severe earthquake it has seen in twenty-five years during the morning peak hour on Wednesday. The quake led to nine fatalities, left dozens of quarry workers stranded, and caused residents to flee from their damaged buildings.

The epicenter of the earthquake, which resulted in over 1,000 injuries, was located offshore the rural, mountainous region of Hualien County. Some buildings in the affected area leaned at drastic angles, reflecting the magnitude of the quake. Meanwhile, around 150 kilometers away in Taipei, the capital city, schools were evacuated, and property was damaged.

Efforts were deployed in Hualien to locate and rescue potentially trapped individuals, while stabilization of damaged buildings was also prioritized. The overall number of people missing, trapped, or stranded fluctuated as the authorities worked on retrievals and rescues.

The natural calamity elicited significant warnings due to heavy snowfall and very high winds, raising the risk of avalanches in the southern Swiss Alps. Authorities advised that the Grisons and Valais cantons had an especially elevated risk. The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) issued an advisory expecting sizeable, sporadic avalanches in the wake of the quake.

According to the SLF, there have already been 14 fatalities across twelve avalanches and accidents in Switzerland this season, the majority of whom were cross-country skiers.

The death toll from the quake, which hit just before 8 a.m, has been confirmed at nine by Taiwan’s national fire agency. This includes three hikers and a van driver who died as a result of landslides in Taroko National Park in Hualien. A tsunami warning was initiated but later revoked.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gauged the quake at a magnitude of 7.2 while the U.S. Geological Survey measured it at 7.4. It originated around 18 kilometers from Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast and was about 35 kilometers deep.

The last killer quake to strike Hualien was back in 2018, which claimed 17 lives and caused the collapse of a historic hotel. Taiwan’s deadliest recent earthquake was on September 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.7, that resulted in 2,400 deaths, injured around 100,000, and caused the devastation of thousands of buildings.