Strong earthquakes hit Taiwan: Warning of possible three-metre tsunami after 7.5 magnitude tremor and strong aftershocks rock Asian island, downing several buildings

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A massive 7.5-magnitude earthquake has hit Taiwan, sparking fears of three-metre tall tsunami waves affecting Japan's southern islands.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued a tsunami alert for the southern islands of the Far Eastern country following the tremor, which happened shortly before 9am Japanese local time (12am GMT, 1am UK time).

Multiple videos were shared of damage to Hualien, a city on the east coast of Taiwan close to the epicentre of the quake - with buildings downed and landslides throwing up huge clumps of dirt and dust. 

Taiwan's Central Weather Administration agency said the quake could be felt across the island - measuring 7.2 at the epicentre and around four at its weakest on the furthest reaches away from the centre of the tectonic jolt.

A 30 cm tsunami reached Yonaguni Island at 9.18am Japan time, JMA said.

Images from Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan close to the epicentre, showed a large glass-fronted building partially collapsed onto its front

Multiple videos of the building in the east coast island city show it keeled over, jolted from its foundations by the 7.5-magnitude tremor

A webcam image from the capital of Taiwan, Taipei. The camera could be seen shaking violently as the 7.5 magnitude tremor set in

The quake struck shortly before 9am Japan time (12am GMT, 1am UK time) on Taiwan's eastern edge, south of the coastal city of Hualien

Images from Hualien, a coastal city just 11 miles north of the epicentre of the quake, show collapsed buildings across the city

Part of a building collapsed onto a series of parked motorcycles. It is not known if there are any casualties

Videos shared on social media showed homes being shaken by the quake as items were flung from shelves onto the floor below

A map issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows the epicentre of the earthquake off the coast of Taiwan (the 'x' symbol) as well as the islands most likely to be affected, highlighted in red

In several images from Hualien, a large red glass-fronted tower block was seen to have partially collapsed, keeling over towards the ground and resting at an angle as shocked onlookers watched on.

Another video of webcam in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei showed the camera being juddered by the convulsions.

A post from the JMA's disaster preparation account on X, formerly Twitter, has warned those in the affected areas not to leave designated safe zones until given the all clear.

A translation of the tweet read: 'As of 09:01 on the 3rd, a tsunami warning has been issued. Tsunamis strike repeatedly. Do not leave your safe area until the warning has been lifted.'

The JMA says the Okinawa and Miyajokima and Yaeyama island groupings are at risk of tsunamis up to three metres (10feet) high.

'Evacuate!' said a banner on national broadcaster NHK.

'Tsunami is coming. Please evacuate immediately,' an anchor on NHK said. 'Do not stop. Do not go back.'

It is not known if there are any casualties. However, the force of the quake was such that it could be felt in Shanghai, around 500 miles to the north of the epicentre, according to news agency Reuters.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a magnitude of 7.4, with its epicentre 18 kilometres south of Taiwan's Hualien City at a depth of 34.8 km.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes because the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

A 7.6-magnitude jolt hit Taiwan in September 1999, killing around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's history.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about one-fifth of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater and it experiences around 1,500 jolts every year. 

On March 11, 2011, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami. Those events triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chornobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

The country was also rocked by its deadliest quake in eight years on New Year's Day when a 7.6 magnitude temblor struck in Ishikawa prefecture, on the western coast. 

More than 230 people died in the quake that left 44,000 homes fully or partially destroyed. 

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