Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the people of Taiwan after a powerful earthquake struck the island nation's eastern shore.

In a message sent to the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference of Taiwan, April 4, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope "was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and damage caused by the earthquake in Taiwan."

The pope, he added, "assures everyone affected by this disaster of his heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness."

"Pope Francis likewise prays for the dead, the injured and all those displaced, as well as for the emergency personnel engaged in recovery efforts and invokes upon all the divine blessings of consolation and strength," Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The 7.4 magnitude earthquake, which was felt April 3, is the strongest one to hit the island in almost 25 years, the Reuters news agency reported.

According to the U.S Geological Survey, the quake's epicenter was located roughly 11 miles south of Hualien City with dozens of tremors and aftershocks shortly after the initial earthquake.

UCA News reported that at least nine people lost their lives. They include three people who were crushed by boulders that fell on them during a morning hike. Several drivers also were killed due to falling boulders and another victim was killed in a mine.

As of the time of this report, The Associated Press stated that the number of injured totaled over 1,000. Dozens more may still be trapped within the rubble of collapsed buildings in areas affected by the quake.

In a statement released April 4 by the Diocese of Hualien, quoted by UCA News, Bishop Philip Huang Chao-ming said that following the earthquake, the diocese "immediately contacted all parishes to express condolences and offer care."

"There have been no reports of serious damage at this time, except for some parishes where items have fallen or are damaged and need to be repaired," he said.

Bishop Huang called on parish priests to "keep close attention to the needs of people and parishes" and Catholics to seek "the peace of the resurrected Jesus in our worries and fears."

"I also wish that the disaster and conditions in stricken areas will be gone soon, and that God grants us peace! God bless Taiwan," the bishop said.

On X, formerly Twitter, a video was posted by the news agency TVBS World Taiwan, showing traffic at a standstill on a bridge as it swayed during the earthquake.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen posted on X that she is "deeply grateful for the messages of support we have received from around the world, and to our first responders for their life-saving work," she wrote. "My heart is with everyone affected. Please keep in touch with loved ones, and stay safe."

The earthquake also prompted Japan and the Philippines to issue tsunami warnings. Speaking to journalists, Wu Chien-fu, director of Taipei's Central Weather Administration's Seismology Center, said the quake struck "close to land and it's shallow. It's felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands."

"It's the strongest in 25 years since the (1999) earthquake," he said, referring to the 7.6 magnitude quake that struck the island nation in September 1999 that killed an estimated 2,500 people and was one the deadliest in the country's history.