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Earthquake rocks Taiwan, killing at least 4 and rattling tech sector

TAIPEI -- A powerful earthquake struck in the ocean near Taiwan on Wednesday morning, killing at least four people and shaking the island's critical high-tech industries while briefly triggering tsunami alerts in the Philippines and Japan's Okinawa.

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 Taiwan's Interior Ministry had reported four deaths and many more injuries as of early afternoon. 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