A map showing the location of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of Jeju Island on Tuesday afternoon (Korea Meteorological Administration)
A powerful 4.9-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday afternoon struck the southwestern coast off Jeju Island, causing panic as it marked one of the strongest earthquakes in South Korea’s recent history.
The Korea Meteorological Administration said in an emergency alert that the earthquake was observed 32 kilometers southwest of Seogwipo, Jeju Island, at 5:19 p.m. Tuesday.
The epicenter is suspected to be 17 kilometers below sea level, with a latitude of 33.15N and a longitude of 126.24E, according to the national weather service. The earthquake was initially reported to have a magnitude of 5.3 but was later revised to be 4.9.
Authorities said Jeju Island residents could have experienced huge tremors due to the earthquake and they were in the process of verifying if any damage occurred. They advised people in the area to take cover and protect themselves from aftershocks.
Social media users believed to be in Jeju Island reported the ground shaking for three to four seconds, with some structures shaking. Local news reports said some fences were "violently shaken" and that people in the region were panicking from the unexpected shake.
No significant damage or fatalities were immediately reported, according to the KMA. The National Fire Agency said no damages were immediately reported while people also reported feeling the earthquake in areas other than Jeju Island.
The latest earthquake is the 11th-strongest earthquake recorded in South Korea’s modern history, according to KMA data, and is the first earthquake of a magnitude exceeding 4.5 in four years. The last strong earthquake with a similar magnitude was recorded in 2018 when a 4.6 magnitude earthquake hit Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province.
The strongest earthquakes recorded in South Korea was a 5.8 magnitude shake observed in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in 2016. The earthquake, despite being stronger than a 5.4 magnitude earthquake reported a year later, reported far less damage than expected.
By Ko Jun-tae (email@example.com