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Taiwan earthquake: 70 miners trapped in two coal mines as powerful tremor rocks country

So far, at least nine people have been killed and over 900 people have been injured following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan on Wednesday. Residual aftershocks in the island country also caused 24 landslides and damage to 35 roads, bridges and tunnels.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Taipei Published on: April 03, 2024 18:59 IST
Taiwan earthquake, miners trapped
Image Source : REUTERS A damaged building cordoned off after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan.

Taipei: As many as 70 coal miners remain trapped in two coal mines in Hualien County after Taiwan experienced the most powerful earthquake in 25 years on Wednesday, according to the country's National Fire Agency (NFA). At least 64 people were trapped in one coal mine, and six people were stuck in a different mine, the agency said.

A total of nine people have been killed so far, according to Taiwan's fire agency, as the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the semi-autonomous island nation just before 8 am (local time). Taiwanese media reports said 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. Meanwhile, 50 hotel workers were missing en route to a national park, authorities said, as rescuers used ladders to bring others to safety.

Another 934 people were injured. The quake and aftershocks also caused 24 landslides and damage to 35 roads, bridges and tunnels. Traffic along the East Coast was at a virtual standstill after the earthquake, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways.

Trains service suspended, tsunami warnings lifted

Train services were suspended across Taiwan, with some tracks twisted by the stress of the quake, along with the subway service in Taipei, where sections of a newly constructed elevated line split apart but did not collapse. However, the initial panic after the earthquake quickly faded on the island, which prepares for such events with drills at schools and notices issued via public media and mobile phones.

By noon, the metro station in the busy northern Taipei suburb of Beitou was again buzzing with people commuting to jobs and people arriving to visit the hot springs or travel the mountain paths at the base of an extinct volcano. The Japan Meteorological Agency said a tsunami of 30 centimetres (about 1 foot) was detected on the coast of Yonaguni island about 15 minutes after the quake struck. Tsunami advisories were issued in Japan and the Philippines, but they were lifted later in the day.

The earthquake was also felt in Shanghai and several provinces along China's southeastern coast, according to Chinese media. China and Taiwan are about 160 kilometres (100 miles) apart. Taiwan lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world's earthquakes occur.

Videos streamed by the Taoyuan Scenic Area Service Agency on its social media account showed trees and suspension lines on a bridge shaking as the quake hit. Television images showed neighbours and rescue workers lifting residents, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street. All appeared mobile, in shock but without serious injuries. Doors had been fused shut by the pressure of the tilt.

Earthquakes in Taiwan

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. 

The government continually revises the level of quake resistance required of new and existing buildings — which may increase construction costs — and offers subsidies to residents willing to check their buildings' quake resistance. The toll on the high-tech island's 23 million residents has been relatively contained thanks to its excellent earthquake preparedness, experts say.

Wednesday's quake was the biggest since one of magnitude 7.6 in 1999 that killed about 2,400 people and damaged or destroyed 50,000 buildings. Taiwan and its surrounding waters have registered about 2,000 earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater since 1980, and more than 100 earthquakes with a magnitude above 5.5, according to the US Geological Survey.

(with inputs from agencies)

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