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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

20 Hongkongers appeal for help from city’s immigration officials after 7.3 magnitude quake hits Taiwan

  • Disaster killed at least nine people in Taiwan, with quake so strong more than 100 people in Hong Kong reported they felt minor tremors
  • Observatory says minor tsunami 2.75cm above normal sea levels reached city about 1pm

Twenty Hongkongers in Taiwan asked for help from the city’s Immigration Department on Wednesday after a deadly magnitude 7.3 earthquake rocked the island’s southeast coast.

The quake was so strong more than 100 people in Hong Kong reported they felt minor tremors. The disaster killed at least nine people in Taiwan and injured 821.

The quake hit at 7.58am in waters about 25km (15.5 miles) southeast of the Taiwanese county of Hualien at a depth of 15.5km and sparked tsunami warnings.

The Immigration Department confirmed it had received a total of 20 requests for help from Hong Kong residents in the affected area by 5pm.

Officials added the individuals caught up in the disaster were in safe places.

The department said it would continue to maintain close contact with them and monitor the situation.

The Travel Industry Council said about 30 tour groups – a total of 900 people – were in Taiwan at present, with only two to three of them in badly hit Yilan. There were no reports of any groups in Hualien, close to the epicentre.

The council said it had not had any requests for help, only some inquiries about independent travellers. It added two charter tour groups were scheduled to go to Hualien on Wednesday, but the itineraries were changed after the earthquake hit.

More than 10 regular groups were scheduled to leave for Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday, but they would not cover Hualien, the council said.

The damage in Taipei City, about 120km north of Hualien, was also significant.

Alan Chan, a Hong Kong retiree who has lived in Taipei for seven years, said it was the first time he felt his life was threatened.

He said his home suffered significant damage, with wall tiles being dislodged and a large fridge in the corner moving inside his flat.

“The building was swinging back and forth and it sounded like riding on a roller coaster. I was really helpless and scared,” he said, adding that he had experienced earthquakes often on the island, but the latest was “major”.

Magnitude 2 earthquake strikes Hong Kong at 1.22pm, residents report shaking

Cherry Leung, a tour leader with travel agency EGL, is escorting 20 Hong Kong residents on a five-day tour that started on Sunday and covers Taichung, Miaoli and Taipei. She said they were in a hotel in Taichung when the quake struck.

“I was in my room when the doors of the wardrobe started flapping open and closed. Even the cable of the hairdryer was swinging – it lasted about 20 seconds,” Leung added.

She said a warning message from Taiwan authorities was sent to mobile phones about two seconds before the tremor.

Many of the guests who used the stairs to evacuate gathered at an open area of the hotel after the first tremors were felt.

“About 10 minutes after the earthquake, there was an aftershock – it was shaky,” Leung said.

She added the earthquake did not disrupt the group’s plans and Taichung appeared to be unaffected. The tour continued to Taipei by road as planned and is scheduled to return to Hong Kong on Thursday.

The Airport Authority in Hong Kong said at 7.30pm that flights from Hong Kong to Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung were not affected.

But two outbound flights to Naha Airport in Okinawa declared air returns in the morning, but flew to the destination in the afternoon.

The Hong Kong Observatory said a sea-level anomaly of around 7cm (2.75 inches) was observed near Shek Pik at about 1pm, and was likely to be because of the arrival of a tsunami triggered by the event, but it subsided.

The Observatory had logged eight “very minor tsunami” since the 1950s. The highest sea level changes – 30cm – were recorded in 1960 and 1988.

A Tongan volcanic eruption in 2022 also caused a 10cm tsunami that affected the city.

Hongkongers said they felt minor shakes for several seconds. The Observatory said it had received more than 100 reports.

The Observatory graded the local tremors at three on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. That meant they could be felt indoors and resembled vibrations caused by passing light trucks.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration recorded dozens of aftershocks in the three hours after the quakes, most just minutes apart.

Media also broadcast footage of several collapsed buildings in the area and said some people were trapped.

Hong Kong singer-songwriter Serruria Leung Ka-yan said she was asleep in her room at Taipei’s Mandarin Oriental hotel when she felt the tremors.

She said she grabbed some of her belongings and rushed downstairs to an open area.

“It shook for so long and I immediately hid under an armchair, watching the chandelier break apart,” she said on Instagram.