April 15, 2024

The first quake was alarming enough — a rumble more powerful than anything felt in Taiwan for a quarter-century, lasting for more than a minute on Wednesday morning, knocking belongings and even whole buildings askew. It was so strong it set off tsunami warnings in Japan, China and the Philippines.

But then, even in a fault-riddled place with long and hard experience with earthquakes, the jolt of aftershock after aftershock was startling, continuing every few minutes throughout the day.

The magnitude-7.4 quake killed nine and injured more than 900 others, stretching an expert quake response system that has served as a model in other places. More than 50 people remained trapped Wednesday evening. Forty flights were canceled or delayed. Around 15,000 households were without water, and 5,000 households were without power.

Tsai Kuang-Hui, a retired teacher in Hualien, on the island’s east coast, near the epicenter, said that residents were choosing to remain outside. “I’m trying to fix a broken water pipe. There’s a lot of water and gas pipes that have been broken,” he said by phone.

Many residents had been at home, getting ready for work and school, when the quake struck. Others were driving on highways or had already set off on early hikes in Taiwan’s national parks ahead of a four-day holiday. After the main quake stopped, people across the island fled on to the streets to assess damaged buildings and quickly text friends and family members reassurances and pictures of broken belongings.

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