Taiwan was struck by the largest earthquake in 25 years in the early hours of Wednesday morning, collapsing buildings and triggering landslides, killing several and leaving tens of dozens missing.

Rescue efforts are underway after a powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan around 0800 local time Wednesday (0100 GMT, 2000 EST Tuesday). Local media reports the death toll has risen to nine people and that may increase further as attempts to locate 77 people thought to be missing.

Among the missing, per reports, is a party of 50 travellers on their way to a rural hotel in a national park. The group was travelling in four minibuses and apparently haven’t been heard from. Taiwan’s President-elect Lai Ching-te told press the present priority is searching for survivors.

ANKARA, TURKIYE – APRIL 3: An infographic titled ‘Strong earthquake jolts Taiwan’ created in Ankara, Turkiye on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Yasin Demirci/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A vehicle in a collapsed road following an earthquake in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Taiwan has been hit by the strongest earthquake in a quarter of a century, with shocks from the temblor leveling dozens of buildings on the eastern side of the island, injuring more than 50 people and disrupting some chip production lines. Photographer: An Rong Xu/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Damaged houses and road following an earthquake in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Photographer: An Rong Xu/Bloomberg via Getty Images

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – APRIL 03: 6th Mixed Wing of the Air Force, and the 10th Airlift Group dispatch three batches and three sorties of C-130 aircraft to carry out disaster relief operations and carry rescuers as members of a search and rescue team prepare after a strong earthquake, 7.4 magnitude, occurred this morning, causing disasters in the Hualien area of Taiwan on April 03, 2024. Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked the island during the morning rush Wednesday, damaging buildings and creating a tsunami that washed ashore on southern Japanese islands. (Photo by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: The National Army’s Second Combat Zone has dispatched liaison officers and intelligence officers to the county government after strong earthquake, 7.4 magnitude, occurred this morning (Photo by Army Command Headquarters (MND)/Anadolu via Getty Images)

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Executive Director Chen Jianren hold a press conference as they visit the Central Disaster Response Center (Photo by Taiwanese Presidential Office/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The epicentre of the quake is thought to be underneath the small city of Hualien on the Pacific-facing east coast. The 100,000-resident city is approximately 75 miles south of Taipei, the capital of the Republic of China, Taiwan. Despite the distance some damage is clear in the capital, including to the Taipei metro railway system.

As well as damaged buildings, including one apparently steel-framed building that appears to have toppled very nearly over onto its side, those in the countryside have also suffered from landslides. Taiwanese officials say five of those known killed by the earthquake were struck by falling rocks, and three of those were hiking on a nature trail in Hualien province.

Over 800 are reported to have been injured. Tsunami warnings were issued but later retracted. The earthquake has been measured as the strongest to have hit Taiwan since 1999 which killed 2,411 people and caused widespread power outages. The high death toll was blamed partly on poor quality of building construction, with a 2000 report claiming two thirds of fatalities had been in buildings which weren’t signed off by an engineer. Higher quality of building since the traumatic 1999 quake may account in part for a comparatively low death toll today from an earthquake of comparable power.

As noted by Britain’s BBC, China has been fast to offer aid to Taiwan, but Taiwan has turned down the suggested assistance from Beijing, which claims all of Taiwan as its own territory and is frequently discussed as a Russia-Ukraine style invasion risk.

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – APRIL 03: Members of a search and rescue team prepare to enter a leaning building (Photo by National Fire Agency/Anadolu via Getty Images)

An elevated track for the Taipei Metro damaged following an earthquake in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Photographer: An Rong Xu/Bloomberg via Getty Images

TAICHUNG, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: A small passenger vehicle is seriously damaged and the windshield is shattered after hit by falling rocks on the Zhonghengbian Road as at least four people were killed and hundreds of others injured after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck off Taiwan’s eastern coast on the Richter scale, in Taichung, Taiwan on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Guguan Public Works Section/Anadolu via Getty Images)

TAICHUNG, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: Fengyuan Passenger Transport is almost hit by fallin rocks on the Zhonghengbian Road as at least four people were killed and hundreds of others injured after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck off Taiwan’s eastern coast on the Richter scale, in Taichung, Taiwan on April 3, 2024. Passengers on the bus are still waiting for rescue. (Photo by Guguan Public Works Section/Anadolu via Getty Images)

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: The Uranus Building at Xuanyuan Road is tilted severely (Photo by Hualien County Fire Department/Anadolu via Getty Images)

HUALIEN, TAIWAN – APRIL 3: Fire fighters search inside a building for rescue operation (Photo by Hualien County Fire Department/Anadolu via Getty Images)

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