Rescuers in Taiwan scrambled to free dozens of people trapped in highway tunnels after the island was struck by its strongest earthquake in 25 years Wednesday, killing at least seven and
injuring hundreds of others. According to the US Geological Survey, the powerful 7.4-magnitude tremor shook the island’s east coast, hitting at 7:58 a.m. local time, 18 kilometers south of Hualien city and at a
depth of 34.8 kilometers. It was followed by several strong aftershocks, with tremors felt across the island, including some media towers in the capital, Taipei.
Taiwan’s National Fire Agency (NFA) said at least seven people were killed, 736 injured and 77 others remain trapped in road tunnels following the quake. The severity of the injuries remains unknown.
All the deaths were in Hualien County, among them were three hikers killed by falling rocks in the tourist hotspot of Taroko Gorge, the NFA said. Falling rocks also killed a truck driver in front of a tunnel on the east coast’s Suhua Highway.
Most of those trapped are in two road tunnels in northern Hualien County. Two German nationals are stranded in a third tunnel in the county, the NFA.
Meanwhile, rescuers were en route to find 12 people, including two Canadians, stuck on a trail in the gorge.
Reports of extensive damage have also emerged, with collapsed buildings in Hualien County, thousands of homes left without power and a major highway closed due to landslides and rockfalls, according to Taiwanese officials.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration spokesperson warned that powerful aftershocks as high as magnitude 7 are expected to occur until the end of the week. The quake prompted initial tsunami warnings in Taiwan, southern Japan and the Philippines, with waves less than half a meter observed along some coasts, prompting airlines to suspend flights. All tsunami warnings were later lifted.
In Taiwan, military personnel were dispatched to help with disaster relief and schools and workplaces suspended operations as aftershocks hit the island, according to the Defense Ministry.

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