A powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the entire island of Taiwan early Wednesday, collapsing buildings in a southern city and creating a tsunami that washed ashore on southern Japanese islands.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) forecast a tsunami of up to three metres for the southern Japanese island group of the Okinawa prefecture.

A 30-centimetre wave was detected on the coast of Yonaguni island, approximately 111 kilometres off Taiwan’s east coast, about 15 minutes after the quake struck.

The JMA says waves likely also hit the coasts of Miyako and Yaeyama islands.

Japan’s Self Defense Forces sent aircraft to gather information about the tsunami impact around the Okinawa region and were preparing shelters for evacuees if necessary.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii or the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

A map is shown
Japan issued a tsunami alert for the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa prefecture, extending from Taiwan’s east coast. (CBC)

Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the magnitude as 7.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put it at 7.4, revised from a preliminary magnitude of 7.5.

It struck at 7:58 a.m. local time, about 18 kilometres southwest of Hualien, on the other side of the island from the capital, and was about 35 kilometres deep.

Several aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 5.2 to 6.4 followed the initial quake, according to the USGS.

A five-storey building in lightly populated Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle.

In the capital, Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes.

WATCH | TV newsroom shakes during quake:

Taipei newsroom shakes intensely after earthquake

Video obtained by Reuters shows TV monitors inside a Taipei newsroom shaking following a strong earthquake that struck off Taiwan.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei.

But things quickly returned to normal in the capital, with children going to school and the morning commute appearing to be normal.

Wu Chien-fu, head of Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring bureau, said effects were detected as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled group of islands off the coast of China.

The quake was believed to be the biggest in Taiwan since a temblor in 1999 caused extensive damage. Taiwan lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

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