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Buildings collapse in eastern Taiwan as island hit its strongest earthquake in 25 years

Buildings collapse in eastern Taiwan as island hit its strongest earthquake in 25 years

Taiwan earthquake: Taipei rebuffs aid offer from mainland China as disaster toll rises to 9 dead, 934 injured

  • Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen says the ‘priority now is to save people’ but island’s government says ‘there is no need for the mainland side to assist us’
  • Some semiconductor firms evacuated entire plants or partially closed factories while others have continued normal operations
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The Taiwanese government has rebuffed an offer of help extended by Beijing as the island contends with the aftermath of a deadly 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck on Wednesday morning, killing at least nine people.

At least 934 people are reported injured and 56 remain trapped in the quake that struck off the east coast at 7.58am and sparked tsunami warnings.

Soon after the disaster, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council offered the island disaster assistance.

In response, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a short statement there was no need for the mainland to help.

“We noticed that the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office had expressed concern about the earthquake in waters off Hualien this morning. We greatly appreciate its concern, but there is no need for the mainland side to assist us in disaster relief,” the statement said.

The epicentre of Wednesday’s quake was in waters about 25km (15.5 miles) south of the eastern county of Hualien and 138km from Taipei, according to the Central Weather Bureau. The shock was felt across the island, causing buildings to collapse.

Tsunami warnings were issued on the island as well as in mainland China and elsewhere in the region.

Local media footage showed that buildings shook violently for a minute before crashing to the ground, while residents ran screaming.

The Taiwanese government has confirmed nine deaths from the quake, all in Hualien.

Three hikers were killed by falling rocks at the famed Dekalun Trail in Taroko National Park in Hualien and a truck driver died when his vehicle was crushed by rocks near a tunnel in Hualien. In Taroko park more than 40 people, mostly tourists, were hurt and hundreds were evacuated.

At least 50 people in Hualien, Yilan, Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung and Taoyuan were hurt after they were either hit by fallen objects or fell during the earthquake.

The semiconductor industry on the island has been affected, with industry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) evacuating factory areas and partially shutting down for preventive measures, according to the Hsinchu Science Park Administration, about 240km from Hualien.

In a statement to the Post on Wednesday afternoon, TSMC said all its personnel were safe and some had since returned to work. It said initial inspections showed that construction sites were not damaged but work on those sites would “resume following further inspections”.

The earthquake hit off Hualien and could be felt across the island, as well as in mainland China. Photo: Facebook/基督教台東興起教會

Earlier, TSMC had estimated the impact on the company’s second quarter financial forecast would be around US$60 million. But the overall impact would be limited, it said.

In Hsinchu, Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s plant was partially shut as a preventive measure and Innolux’s plant was also partially closed.

KYEC and Taimide Tech evacuated entire plants. AUO, UMC and Macronix were operating as normal.

Some 22 people were rescued from a collapsed eight-storey building in Hualien, police said. The body of a woman who had been reported missing in the building was later found.

A visibly upset woman identified by her family name Lin told the semi-official Central News Agency she was in the building when the earthquake first struck, shaking the structure violently. When it shook again, the building tilted towards the road.

“My mum could not walk because she was hit by a falling cabinet but we are safe,” the woman said after she and her mother were rescued by firefighters.

Taiwan earthquake disrupts trains in mainland China at start of travel rush

Su Chin-hui, who led firefighters in the rescue mission, said that by the time they arrived at the scene, the building had tilted 60 to 70 degrees.

“Rescuers were unable to stand on their own and had to rely on some supports to make sure they were safe before they pulled the trapped residents out,” he told reporters.

A five-storey building in Hualien also collapsed partially, but all residents were safe, police said.

Part of the ceiling in Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport fell when the quake struck, airport officials said, adding that there were no reports of passenger injuries so far.

Damaged walls, falling bricks and debris were reported across most of the island, police said.

So far, 125 building and houses in Taiwan have been reported damaged, including seven houses in New Taipei which caved in after their foundations collapsed, according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.

Several mountain sectors of highways in Hualien and central Taiwan were closed to traffic because they had either partially caved in or were blocked by fallen rocks, police said.

Taiwan’s high-speed rail operator said no damage or injuries were reported on its trains, but said services would be delayed while it carried out inspections.

Power outages were reported in various parts of Taiwan when the quake started, but power was mostly restored by 10.30am, according to the Taiwan Power Company.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the government’s “priority now is to save people”.

She expressed concern about damage caused on the island and asked the military to support the authorities in Hualien and elsewhere on the island in rescue missions.

“The central government also needs to provide assistance to local governments … to minimise the impact of the disaster,” Tsai said.

Buildings were shaken from their foundations in a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in Hualien City, Taiwan on Wednesday morning. Photo: CNA

Vice-President William Lai Ching-te, who was elected the island’s leader in January, called on the public to take care and stay calm. He said the government had opened an emergency centre to deal with the disaster.

Lai will succeed Tsai as the next Taiwanese president on May 20. There was no report from either Tsai or Lai’s office whether the presidential inauguration would be postponed because of the quake.

The quake was the biggest to hit the island since 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude tremor killed around 2,400 people and destroyed or damaged 50,000 buildings in one of Taiwan’s worst-recorded quakes.

In August 2009, Taiwan suffered the worst flood in 50 years from Typhoon Morakot, causing heavy losses to people and property. Mainland departments donated funds to aid disaster relief.

In February 2016, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck southern Taiwan, killing 117 people.

The statement on Wednesday by the island’s Mainland Affairs Council echoes Taipei’s position in 2018 when it rejected Beijing’s offer to help with an earthquake rescue mission, only to allow Japan to step in with hi-tech assistance.

Hongkongers report feeling tremors after 7.3 magnitude quake hits Taiwan

It also reflects the souring of cross-strait relations since 2016 when Tsai refused to accept the “one-China” principle after she took office in May that year.

In 2018, after the February 6 earthquake in Hualien that killed dozens of people and hurt hundreds, mainland parties donated more than 23 million yuan (US$3.1 million).

Taipei rejected Beijing’s offer to help with an earthquake rescue mission just before a second quake, saying it had enough manpower to search for missing people.

A day later, as the search continued, the Taipei government accepted Japan’s help, offering the rationale that its rescuers brought hi-tech equipment to detect signs of life.

Since Tsai came to power, Beijing has suspended official cross-strait talks and exchanges with Taiwan, which it considers to be a breakaway province.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state, but Washington is opposed to any attempt to take the self-governed island by force and is committed to arm Taiwan.


Landslides triggered in eastern Taiwan after island hit by strongest earthquake in 25 years

Landslides triggered in eastern Taiwan after island hit by strongest earthquake in 25 years

The impact of the earthquake could be felt in Japan and off the east coast of mainland China, including in Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shantou.

Japan has offered to provide support to Taiwan. On social media platform X, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent condolences to the quake victims and said he hoped “Taiwanese friends” remained safe.

Kishida thanked Taiwan for sending aid to his country after earthquakes hit Japan earlier this year and in 2011 when devastating quakes were followed by tsunami.

Lai responded in Japanese on X, formerly Twitter, thanking Kishida. “Your words warm our hearts and symbolise the strong bond between Taiwan and Japan. Let us continue to help each other and join hands to overcome these difficult times,” Lai posted.

The mainland’s Tsunami Warning Centre issued a level 1 tsunami alert, or red alert – the highest of four levels – and said it expected there would be further damage to areas around Hualien, including eastern Taipei.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for Miyako Island and the main island of Okinawa around 8am, with waves expected to reach 3 metres (9.8 feet) high, NHK reported.

Taiwanese scramble to safety after the earthquake struck around 8am on Wednesday. Photo: Facebook/基督教台東興起教會

An hour later, Manila also issued a tsunami warning and ordered the evacuation of its coastal areas, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Aftershocks up to magnitude 7 were expected in the next few days, the island’s Central Weather Bureau said.

A total of 20 Hongkongers in Taiwan asked for help from the Immigration Department on Wednesday after the earthquake.

The quake was so strong more than 100 people in Hong Kong reported they felt minor tremors.

The Travel Industry Council said there were about 30 tour groups – a total of 900 people – in Taiwan at present, with only two to three of them in badly hit Yilan.

About 10 groups are scheduled to leave for Taiwan in the next two days, but Hualien was not part of their itineraries, the council said.