Severe earthquakes have caused damage to numerous buildings in the East Asian island republic of Taiwan. The Taiwanese and Japanese authorities issued tsunami warnings following the tremors on Wednesday morning (local time). Taiwan’s meteorological agency recorded a magnitude 7.2 quake on the southeastern coast of Hualien Island at a depth of 15.5 kilometers. The United States Earthquake Observatory (USGS) reported a magnitude of 7.4 in the area.

According to local media reports, buildings in Hualien were partly badly damaged by the violent tremors. Photos showed how a multi-story house collapsed and became tilted. According to eyewitnesses, the quake was also clearly felt in the Taiwanese capital Taipei. Public rail transport has been suspended in several large cities on the island with more than 23 million inhabitants. Express train services were also interrupted.

In Japan, the tremor off Taiwan triggered a warning of a three-meter-high tsunami for nearby islands in the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. Residents of the affected islands were called upon to seek safety.

The last time Taiwan was hit was in September 1999 by a magnitude 7.3 quake. At that time, more than 2,400 people died. Taiwan lies in an earthquake-prone zone on the boundary of the Eurasian plate and the Philippine Sea plate.