Strong earthquake hits Taiwan, Japan issues tsunami, typhoon warning

TAIPEI: A strong earthquake struck the southeastern coast of Taiwan today (September 18), the US Geological Survey said, destroying at least one building in a small town and prompting Japan to issue an alert to the tsunami.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency has warned that Typhoon Nanmadol will be a dangerous storm. Photo: AFP

The quake struck at 2:44 p.m. (12:44 p.m. Phuket time) about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Taitung city at a depth of 10 kilometers, the USGS said.

Its initial strength was magnitude 7.2, but the USGS later downgraded it to a magnitude 6.9 earthquake.

At least one building has collapsed in the city of Yuli according to Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency.

Video released by CNA showed panicked residents running towards the building which had collapsed in on itself and sent up a thick cloud of dust.

Tremors were also felt in the capital Taipei, said an AFP journalist.

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck the same area yesterday and there have been several tremors since with minimal damage in what is a mountainous, sparsely populated rural area.

But today’s earthquake was much stronger.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued a tsunami warning to the remote islands near Taiwan.

Waves up to a meter high are expected to arrive around 4 p.m., he added.

Live television images from the affected islands did not immediately show clear signs of high waves.

The China Earthquake Network Center said shaking was clearly felt in coastal areas including Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes because the island sits near the junction of two tectonic plates.

The island is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Basin.

The deadliest earthquake in Taiwan’s history was a magnitude 7.6 quake in September 1999 that killed more than 2,400 people.

Meanwhile, thousands of people were in shelters in southwestern Japan today as powerful Typhoon Nanmadol headed towards the region, prompting authorities to urge nearly three million residents to evacuate.

The JMA has issued a rare “special alert” for the Kagoshima region in southern Kyushu prefecture – an alert that is only issued when it forecasts conditions seen once in decades.

As of this morning, 25,680 homes in Kagoshima and neighboring Miyazaki were already without power, while regional train services, flights and ferry rides were canceled until the storm passed, local utilities said and transportation services.

The JMA has warned that the region could face “unprecedented” danger of high winds, storm surges and torrential rain.

“Maximum caution is required,” Ryuta Kurora, head of the JMA’s forecasting unit, said yesterday.

“It is a very dangerous typhoon. The wind will be so strong that some houses may collapse,” Kurora told reporters, also warning of floods and landslides.

So far, 2.9 million Kyushu residents have received evacuation warnings, according to the government’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, and Kagoshima officials said more than 8,500 people were already in local shelters this morning.

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