Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years has rocked the island during the morning rush hour, damaging buildings and highways and causing the deaths of four people.

Taiwan’s national fire agency said four people died in Hualien County and at least 57 were injured in the quake that struck just before 8am (00:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Train services were suspended across the island of 23 million people, as were subway services in Taipei, where a newly constructed above-ground line partially separated.

Traffic along the east coast was at a virtual standstill, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways in the mountainous region, causing damage to vehicles.

Despite the quake striking at the height of the morning rush hour, the initial panic faded quickly on the island, which is regularly rocked by tremors and prepares for them with drills at schools and notices issued via public media and mobile phones.

Taiwan’s worst quake in recent years struck on September 21, 1999, with a magnitude of 7.6, causing 2,400 deaths, injuring about 100,000 and destroying thousands of buildings.

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the magnitude as 7.2 while the United States Geological Survey put it at 7.4. It struck about 18 kilometres (11.1 miles) south-southwest of Hualien and was about 35 kilometres (21 miles) deep. Multiple aftershocks followed, and the USGS said one of the subsequent quakes was magnitude 6.5 and 11.8 kilometres (7 miles) deep. Shallower quakes tend to cause more surface damage.

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Aljazera

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