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A major earthquake rocked Taiwan — the biggest in a quarter of a century

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

There was a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan today. It's the biggest quake to hit the island in 25 years.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

At least seven people are reported dead, hundreds are injured, and some people are thought to be trapped in rubble. Japan and the Philippines briefly faced tsunami warnings as a result of this earthquake, although those warnings are now lifted.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Emily Feng was in her home in Taipei today when the quake hit. Emily, what did it feel like?

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Well, earthquakes are really common here, so when my building first started shaking, I didn't really think anything of it. But then what followed was about 10 minutes of the most intense shaking I'd experienced yet since moving to this island. The earthquake hit at about 8 a.m. local time, so I had just laid out my coffee and my morning snacks. And when things were shaking, I was actually in an online call. But I just kept going because, again, I thought it was a normal quake. But then everything on my table shattered - the glasses, the coffee. And my building kept swaying for about the next three hours because of numerous aftershocks.

Here's a clip of a Taipei TV studio that was live pretty close to where my home is when the earthquake happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: (Speaking Taiwanese).

FENG: And you can hear the anchor trying to keep on going, but you can also hear the lights and the cameras hanging above her clanging wildly because the building was shaking. And I really got to hand it to her - she tells everyone to stay calm.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, Emily, and I live in LA, so I live in an earthquake area, too. And for people that don't know - when an earthquake happens, you just keep doing what you're doing until the earthquake tells you otherwise, because that's kind of the way it works in these areas. So what's the situation near the epicenter?

FENG: Right now roads and train lines there are still shut off. The epicenter was just off Taiwan's east coast, which is on several major fault lines. Right now you can only reach the city by boat. Some 87,000 people there are without power 'cause a few power plants shut down for safety. And the closest city is Hualien. It has about 320,000 people in that county. It is one of the less densely populated areas in Taiwan. But still, there are videos of some off-kilter houses and collapsed buildings and bridges that were swaying during the earthquake. Mostly, though, it's been a lot of landslides that have blocked roads to the city.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned aftershocks. How many more do you expect?

FENG: Hard to say. Precedent says the aftershocks could continue for the next day or so. There have been dozens. And some of these aftershocks have been actually quite strong. One of them, the U.S. Geological Survey registered at 6.5 magnitude, which is a pretty large quake in and of itself. And so people are still on alert. But here in Taipei, people have gone back to life as normal, and kids even went back to school.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Now, as big as this earthquake was, I mean, it seems like the damage is limited right now. I mean, that sounds pretty remarkable.

FENG: That is the astonishing thing. I mean, let me give you an idea of how kind of amazing this is. By comparison, the last time there was an earthquake this big in Taiwan, it was in 1999, and more than 2,000 people died. The epicenter was in central Taiwan, but still, this time compared to that time, damages and deaths were minimal. There are still some people trapped in collapsed houses. But so far, most of the people who died were a result of people who had gone hiking and had been hit by rocks.

We're still waiting for updates, but right now we're looking at a relatively low figure for deaths and damages. And it's just a testament to how Taiwan has proofed itself against earthquakes in the last 25 years.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Emily Feng. Thanks a lot. Stay safe and stay alert, Emily.

FENG: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.