Magnitude 7.2 quake strikes off eastern Taiwan

Taiwan's meteorological authorities say an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.2 struck off Taiwan's eastern coast at around 7:58 a.m. on Wednesday, local time.

Taiwan's Central Weather Administration says the epicenter was about 25 kilometers off Hualien County in eastern Taiwan.

The focus is estimated to be about 15 kilometers deep.

The Weather Administration is calling on people in coastal areas to be on the alert for sudden changes in sea levels.

The quake registered an intensity of upper 6 on the Taiwanese scale in Hualien County, upper 5 in Yilan County. It registered an intensity of lower 5 in the northern cities of Taipei and New Taipei, and in Taichung.

Taiwanese television station TVBS is reporting there is extensive damage in Hualien County. The broadcaster says mountain slopes have crumbled. It also says the walls of buildings have collapsed and debris is scattered on the streets.

Footage is repeatedly being shown of swaying water in fishbowls and shaking ceiling lights.

The station says aftershocks are continuing and that Disaster Medical Assistance Teams have been dispatched.

It also says many people have gathered outdoors and are checking their smartphones for information.

Strong earthquakes occur frequently in eastern Taiwan.
In 2018, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake destroyed hotels and buildings in Hualien City and other areas near the epicenter. It left 17 people dead and more than 290 others injured.