A powerful earthquake struck off southwestern Taiwan on Tuesday, prompting fears of a potentially destructive tsunami on the second anniversary of the quake and deadly waves that killed thousands in south Asia.
An official at Japan’s Meteorological Agency said there was no longer any danger of a destructive tsunami headed for the Philippines, as had been predicted.
“The expected waves did not materialize,” said Hiroshi Koide of the agency’s earthquake section. “The danger has passed.”
The quake was felt throughout Taiwan. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 7.1, while Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau measured it at 6.7. It was followed eight minutes later by an aftershock registering 7.0, the USGS said.
Taiwanese media reported one person died and three were injured in the southern city of Pintung when their home collapsed. Four members of the same family were trapped in the rubble, the reports said.
Other media reports said city streets had cracked and a major bridge was damaged. They said fires were burning out in the area, apparently caused by downed electric power cables.
Quake on anniversary of tragedy
The quakes hit on the second anniversary of a massive earthquake off Indonesia that triggered a powerful tsunami in the Indian Ocean which killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
The quake was felt throughout Taiwan, the bureau said.
Phone lines were cut in southern Taiwan from Kaohsiung to Pingtung, possibly hindering reports of damage by residents, the CTI Cable News reported. Several high-rise hotels swayed violently in Kaohsiung, it said.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said the quake was located at a depth of 13 miles. Its epicenter was west-southwest of the Hengchun Peninsula on the island’s southern tip.
Hengchun is about 260 miles south of Taipei.
Deadly tsunami statistics
A magnitude 9.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004 caused a tsunami that killed at least 230,000 people in 11 countries. Those waves reached as high as 33 feet.
Unlike wind-driven surface waves, tsunamis are caused by seismic activity such as undersea earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes.
That means tsunamis are deep, reaching all the way to the seafloor, so that when they reach land they are forced upward into sometimes towering walls of water that can inundate coastal communities.