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Taiwan earthquake kills at least 9; TSMC plants recovering

TAIPEI -- A powerful earthquake struck in the ocean near Taiwan on Wednesday morning, killing at least nine 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 magnitude-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. As of Thursday morning, the official death toll stood at nine with 1,038 injured, 93 people trapped and 52 unable to be contacted.

Buildings were severely tilted and train tracks were broken in Hualien, where the local government suspended work and school for the day. Roads leading to the city were also cracked. The people trapped or out of contact included miners, workers at the luxury Silks Place Taroko hotel and tourists at the Jiuqu Cave.

Taiwan's tech companies were assessing the impact. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's top chipmaker, said that all personnel were safe but that the company had evacuated some of its factories as a precaution.

TSMC said in a statement late Wednesday night that inspections had found that "a small number of [chipmaking] tools were damaged at certain facilities, partially impacting those operations." But there was no damage to critical equipment, including all of TSMC's most advanced extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines that make top-of-the-line processors for artificial intelligence and mobile phones, according to the company.

The chipmaker said more than 70% of its chipmaking tools had recovered within 10 hours of the earthquake, and that the recovery of chip equipment operations at its most advanced factory, Fab 18 in the