Strongest earthquake in 25 years rocks Taiwan

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HUALIEN, Taiwan, April 3, (AP): The strongest earthquake in a quarter-century rocked Taiwan during the morning rush hour Wednesday, killing nine people, sending others scrambling out the windows of damaged buildings and halting train service throughout the island. A tsunami warning was triggered but later lifted.
The quake, which also injured hundreds, was centered off the coast of rural, mountainous Hualien County, where some buildings leaned at severe angles, their ground floors crushed. Just over 150 kilometers (93 miles) away in the capital of Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings, and schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some children covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.
Television images showed neighbors and rescue workers lifting residents, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street, after doors fused shut in the shaking. All appeared mobile, in shock but without serious injuries.
Taiwan is regularly jolted by quakes and its population is among the best prepared for them, but authorities said they had expected a relatively mild earthquake and accordingly did not send out alerts. The eventual temblor was strong enough to scare even people who are used to such shaking.
“I’ve grown accustomed to (earthquakes). But today was the first time I was scared to tears by an earthquake,” said Hsien-hsuen Keng, a resident who lives in a fifth-floor apartment in Taipei. ”I was awakened by the earthquake. I had never felt such intense shaking before.”
Nine people died in the quake, which struck just before 8 a.m., according to Taiwan’s national fire agency. The local United Daily News reported that three were hikers killed in rockslides in Taroko National Park, which is in Hualien, and that a van driver died in the same area when boulders hit the vehicle.
Another 934 people were injured. Meanwhile, authorities said they had lost contact with 50 people in minibuses in the national park after the quake downed phone networks. Another six people were trapped in a coal mine, where a rescue was underway.
The quake and aftershocks also caused 24 landslides and damage to 35 roads, bridges and tunnels.
Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency said the quake was 7.2 magnitude while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.4. It struck about 18 kilometers (11 miles) off of Hualien, on Taiwan’s east coast, and was about 35 kilometers (21 miles) deep. Multiple aftershocks followed.
The national legislature, a converted school built before World War II, and sections of the main airport in Taoyuan, just south of Taipei, also saw minor damage.

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