Strong earthquake rocks Taiwan, prompts tsunami warnings in region – National |

An earthquake off the coast Taiwan with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked the entire island on Wednesday morning, collapsing buildings in a southern city and creating a tsunami that washed ashore on southern Japanese islands.

Taiwan television stations showed footage of some collapsed buildings in the lightly populated eastern city of Hualien, near the quake’s epicentre, and media reported some people were trapped. A five-story building appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle.

In the capital, Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes. The strong quake knocked out power in several parts of the city, according to a Reuters witness.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei. But things quickly returned to normal in the capital, with children going to school and the morning commute appearing to be normal.

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The quake hit at 07:58 a.m. (2358 GMT) at a depth of 15.5km (9.6 miles) just off the eastern coast of Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration. It was the strongest quake to hit the island in 25 years, state media said.

The head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau, Wu Chien-fu, said effects were detected as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast of China. Multiple aftershocks were felt in Taipei in the hour after the initial quake.

Japan issued an evacuation advisory for the coastal areas of the southern prefecture of Okinawa, which is made up of several small islands. Tsunami waves of up to three metres were expected to reach large areas of Japan’s southwestern coast, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which put the quake magnitude at 7.5.

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A 0.3-metre tsunami reached Yonaguni Island at 9:18 a.m. (0018 GMT), JMA said. The agency said waves likely also hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands.

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The Philippines Seismology Agency also issued a warning for residents in coastal areas of several provinces, urging them to evacuate to higher ground.

There was no tsunami threat to Hawaii or North America’s west coast from the earthquake, according to officials in British Columbia and the United States.

The quake was felt in Fuzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou and Ningde in China’s Fujian province, according to Chinese state media.

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Taiwan’s official central news agency said 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.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the earthquake registered an intensity of an “Upper 6″ in Taiwan’s Hualien on Japan’s 1-7 intensity scale.

In an Upper 6 earthquake, most unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse and people find it impossible to remain standing or move without crawling, the Japan Meteorological Agency says.

Taiwan lies along the Pacific ”“Ring of Fire,” the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Japan accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

On March 11, 2011, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami. Those events triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

Japan was rocked by its deadliest quake in eight years on New Year’s Day when a 7.6 magnitude temblor struck in Ishikawa prefecture, on the western coast. More than 230 people died in the quake that left 44,000 homes fully or partially destroyed. Five people remain missing, according to local officials.

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—With files from the Associated Press and Global News

Click to play video: 'Japan approves $33M for earthquake recovery efforts in devastated communities'

Japan approves $33M for earthquake recovery efforts in devastated communities

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