Strong earthquake shakes Taiwan, Japan issues tsunami and typhoon warning

TAIPEI: A powerful earthquake hit Taiwan’s southeast coast today (September 18), the US Geological Survey said, bringing down at least one building in a small town and prompting Japan to issue a tsunami warning.

The Japanese weather agency warns of a dangerous storm before Typhoon Nanmadol. Photo: AFP

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

Its initial magnitude was reported as a magnitude 7.2, but USGS later downgraded it to a magnitude 6.9 quake.

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

The video posted by CNA showed panicked residents running toward the building, which had collapsed, kicking up a thick cloud of dust.

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

A magnitude 6.6 quake struck the same region yesterday and since then there have been multiple tremors with minimal damage in a mountainous, sparsely populated rural region.

But today’s quake was much stronger.

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

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

Live TV footage from the affected islands did not immediately show clear signs of high waves.

The China Earthquake Network Center said tremors were clearly felt in coastal areas such as Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shanghai.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes due to the island’s proximity to the intersection of two tectonic plates.

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

Taiwan’s deadliest tremor of all time was a magnitude 7.6 shock in September 1999 that killed over 2,400 people.

Meanwhile, thousands of people were in temporary shelters in southwestern Japan today as powerful Typhoon Nanmadol slammed into the region, prompting authorities to order 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 will only be issued when conditions are forecast to occur once in several decades.

As of this morning, 25,680 homes in Kagoshima and neighboring Miyazaki were already without power while regional train, flight and ferry services were canceled pending the storm’s passage, local utilities and transportation services said.

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

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

“It’s a very dangerous typhoon. The wind will be so fierce that some houses may collapse,” Kurora told reporters, also warning of flooding and landslides.

So far, 2.9 million Kyushu residents have been warned against evacuation, according to the state Fire and Disaster Management Agency, and Kagoshima officials said over 8,500 people were already in local emergency shelters as of this morning.

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