Taiwan Rocked By Magnitude 7.2 Earthquake

Taiwan was shaken by a major earthquake registering magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale on Wednesday at 7:58 a.m. local time.

Authorities said four people were dead and 57 injured as of 1 p.m.

It was the most powerful tectonic event on the island since the “921 quake” on September 21, 1999, when a 7.6-magnitude quake resulted in 2,415 deaths, injured more than 11,300, and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of buildings.

Taipei 101 Seen from Elephant Mountain
The city of Taipei in Taiwan is seen on January 7, 2020. Taiwan was shaken by a major earthquake registering magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale on Wednesday.

Carl Court/Getty Images

The epicenter of Wednesday’s quake was about 15 miles south-southeast of the east coast city of Hualien, which is home to about 100,000 residents. It had a focal depth of about 9.6 miles, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration.

Videos taken in Hualien and shared to social media show buildings leaning at steep angles. Firefighters were dispatched to one of these, a partially collapsed nine-story structure, to rescue people trapped on the third and seventh floors and in the basement, local media reported.

Taiwan’s National Fire Agency did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.

Outside of the city, footage captured the moment the temblor caused a landslide in the mountains.

Further up the east coast, in waters off Yilan County, footage shot from a boat near Guishan (Turtle) Island, so-named due to its distinctive shape, shows a massive column of dust hovering where a section of the island had collapsed into the ocean.

Video taken in the densely populated capital, Taipei, about 70 miles from Hualien, shows commuters’ startled reactions as their mass rapid transit (MRT) train sways.

More than 20 aftershocks had occurred as of time of writing, with most ranging between magnitude 3.4 and 6.5 as of noon, according to Central Weather Administration data. Aftershocks happen with less frequency over time but can occur minutes, days, months, or even years after the initial event.

Just before 9 a.m. local time, Japan issued a tsunami warning for multiple islands in Okinawa, the southwestern prefecture closest to Taiwan. Japanese officials said a small tsunami about 12 inches high was observed off Yonaguni Island about an hour after the quake.

“We appreciate the worldwide good wishes and prayers issued in the wake of the 7.2 earthquake and ongoing aftershocks. Support from allies and friends in moments of adversity touches our hearts and strengthens our resolve,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry wrote in a social media post.

The last major earthquake in Taiwan was a magnitude 6.9 quake that occurred on September 18, 2022, also near Hualien. It resulted in one fatality and 171 injuries​.

Taiwan is situated near the Eurasian and Philippine Sea plates and is crisscrossed by numerous faults, including the particularly active Longitudinal Valley Fault. This geological environment makes the island prone to earthquakes.