A 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off Taiwan’s east coast on Wednesday, setting off tsunami warnings on the island and its neighbouring countries.

The epicentre is located about 18km (11mi) south of Taiwan’s Hualien city, according to the US Geological Survey.

Multiple buildings have partially collapsed in Hualien and are shown leaning at precarious angles.

It is Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years, said seismology officials.

Taiwanese chipmaking giant TSMC said it has evacuated some of its factories in Hsinchu and southern Taiwan for its staff’s safety, but added that its safety systems are operating normally.

TSMC is a major producer of semiconductors for tech firms including Apple and Nvidia.

In the capital Taipei, videos show buildings shaking violently, sending objects flying from shelves and toppling furniture.

In Taiwan’s very mountainous interior, videos posted on social media show the earthquake has unleashed huge landslides. The extent of the damage there is still unknown.

Footage on local media outlets show collapsed residential buildings and people being evacuated from their homes and schools. The impact of the earthquake has also smashed vehicles and thrown items inside stores in disarray, according to clips aired by local broadcaster TVBS.

Reuters Inside an apartment building in New Taipei CityInside an apartment building in New Taipei City. Image Credit: Reuters

In neighbouring Japan, tsunami waves of up to 3m were expected to reach large areas of its southwestern coast, said the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency has warned residents to remain “vigilant for aftershocks with similar intensity” for about a week.

The Philippines’ seismology agency has also issued a tsunami warning.

Chinese state media said tremors were felt in parts of China’s south-eastern Fujian province.

“The earthquake is close to land and it’s shallow. It’s felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands… It’s the strongest in 25 years,” said Wu Chien Fu, the director of Taipei’s Seismology Centre.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan, killing 2,400 people and destroying 5,000 buildings.

Wednesday’s earthquake hit at 07:58 local time (23:58 GMT) at a depth of 15.5km and has set off at least nine aftershocks at magnitude 4 or larger.