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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Nine dead, hundreds injured in Taiwan quake

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Taipei - At least nine people were killed and more than 700 injured Wednesday by a powerful earthquake in Taiwan that damaged dozens of buildings and prompted tsunami warnings that extended to Japan and the Philippines before being lifted.


Officials said the quake was the strongest to shake the island in decades, and warned of more tremors in the days ahead.


"The earthquake is close to land and it's shallow. It's felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands," said Wu Chien-fu, director of Taipei's Central Weather Administration's Seismology Center.


Strict building regulations and widespread public disaster awareness appear to have staved off a major catastrophe for the earthquake-prone island, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates. Wu said the quake was the strongest since a 7.6-magnitude struck in September 1999, killing around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's history. Wednesday's magnitude-7.4 quake hit just before 8:00 am local time (0000 GMT), with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) putting the epicenter 18 kilometers (11 miles) south of Taiwan's Hualien City, at a depth of 34.8 kilometres.


Three people among a group of seven on an early-morning hike through the hills that surround the city were crushed to death by boulders loosened by the earthquake, officials said. Separately, the drivers of a truck and a car died when their vehicles were hit by tumbling boulders, while another man died at a mine.


The National Fire Agency said all the deaths occurred in Hualien County, and that so far 736 people had been injured in the quake, without specifying how seriously. Social media was awash with shared videos and images from around the country of buildings swaying as the quake struck.


"It was shaking violently, the paintings on the wall, my TV and liquor cabinet fell," one man in Hualien told broadcaster SET TV. Dramatic images were shown on local TV of multi-story structures in Hualien and elsewhere tilting after the quake ended, while a warehouse in New Taipei City crumbled.


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