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earthquake rocks taiwan damaging infrastructure and rattling tech sector
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Earthquake rocks Taiwan, damaging infrastructure and rattling tech sector

TAIPEI — A powerful earthquake struck in the ocean near Taiwan on Wednesday morning, shaking the island’s critical high-tech industries while briefly triggering tsunami alerts in Japan’s Okinawa as well as parts of the Philippines. The quake registered at 7.2 off the coast of Hualien, according to Taiwan’s central weather administration, which said it was the biggest temblor to hit the island since September 1999. The full extent of casualties and damage was not immediately clear, but pictures showed severely tilted buildings and broken train tracks in Hualien, where the local government suspended work and school for the day. Roads leading to the city were also cracked. Taiwan’s tech companies were racing to assess the impact. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s top chipmaker, evacuated some of its factories as a precaution. “Preventative measures were initiated according to procedure and some fabs were evacuated,” the company said in a statement. “All personnel are safe, and those evacuated are beginning to return to their workplaces. The company is currently confirming the details of the impact.” TSMC added that it had “decided to suspend work at construction sites [for new facilities] for today, and work will resume following further inspections.” United Microelectronics’ CFO Liu Chitong told Nikkei Asia that the world’s third-largest contract chipmaker had also evacuated production facilities. “Some chipmaking machines did stop and now our team is working to restart the production machines as soon as possible,” he said. Display makers Innolux and AUO both evacuated facilities. A manager at a TSMC equipment supplier told Nikkei Asia that his company was discussing whether to dispatch more staff to work overtime during the upcoming tomb-sweeping holidays later this week, to help chipmakers make up for the disruption. Sources at TSMC said that some wafers were cracked at factories in Hsinchu and that some machinery was halted. Many expected to have to work over the holidays as a result. In Tainan, home to some of the most advanced chip fabrication facilities — including TSMC’s 5-nanometer and 3-nanometer factories, which make processors for Apple’s iPhones and Nvidia’s AI computing chips — the impact appeared to be milder. On Taiwan’s stock market, the Taiex Weighted Index dropped immediately after the opening bell. At one point in the morning, it was down 196.91 points or 0.96%, at 20,269.66. In Japan, the Meteorological Agency measured a preliminary magnitude of 7.5, later upgraded to 7.7, while officials said they were looking into the difference with Taiwan’s reading. They said the quake struck at a depth of 23 kilometers. Japanese officials initially warned of a tsunami that could reach as high as 3 meters in Okinawa. At 9:18 a.m., a tsunami of up to 30 cm was observed at Japan’s Yonaguni Island, near Taiwan. In the Philippines, authorities also issued a tsunami warning for four provinces in the north. Authorities in both countries later canceled the warnings. Naha Airport, near the coast on Okinawa’s main island, temporarily suspended commercial flights due to the tsunami warning but resumed operations around 11 a.m. A Japan Meteorological Agency official said: “Be aware of earthquakes of the same magnitude for about a week after the quake. In particular, large earthquakes are likely to occur during the next two to three days.” The earthquake was likely caused by dip-slip faults being compressed and shifted up and down, according to the agency. Additional reporting by Sayumi Take and Tamayo Muto in Tokyo.

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