iPhone chipmaker TSMC staff evacuated, production halted after Taiwan rocked by strongest earthquake in more than two decades

TSMC factory
(Image credit: Getty Images / NurPhoto)

The world’s largest chipmaker and key Apple supply chain partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has evacuated plants and halted some production after a massive earthquake struck the island during rush hour on Wednesday morning. 

NPR reports that at least seven people have died, with dozens more injured, after a 7.4 magnitude quake struck the island’s east coast, as measured by the U.S. Geological survey. Despite Taiwan’s monitoring agency giving a lower 7.2 estimate, it’s the strongest earthquake to rock the island since 1999, wreaking havoc in Hualien and further afield. 

As reported by Bloomberg, TSMC, which manufacturers the chips in all of Apple’s best iPhones including the upcoming iPhone 16, and the Apple silicon in Apple’s best MacBooks and desktop computers, has “halted some chipmaking machinery and evacuated staff” as a precautionary measure. 

Taiwan earthquake halts chip production 

A statement attributed to the company reads: “TSMC’s safety systems are operating normally. To ensure the safety of personnel, some fabs were evacuated according to company procedure. We are currently confirming the details of the impact.”

As analyst Dan Nystedt noted on X, the recovery time for TSMC and Taiwan’s semiconductor industry as a whole “may be a few days, perhaps a week, barring major incident.” Beyond ensuring the immediate safety of staff in plants, plants will have to be checked for structural damage, gas and chemical leaks, and other potential dangers. As Nystedt notes production equipment will also have to be recalibrated. He specifically names plants “ in the Hsinchu and Southern Taiwan Science Parks” and the stoppage of “some production lines at the Zhunan, Taiwan fabs of TSMC and Powerchip.” 

TSMC established a series of earthquake continuity plans in the wake of the disastrous September 21 earthquake in 1999, which killed nearly 2,500 people. The company says its strategy “is to simultaneously enhance the seismic resistance of facilities along with emergency response skills.” 

Regardless of recovery time, any disruption to TSMC’s production is likely to have a knock-on effect not only on the availability of chips for consumer technology but also on electric vehicles. Big tech names beyond Apple supplied by TSMC include ARM, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm. One commenter on X claimed a source in Tapei “told me all the fabs are down that he has spoken to,” and that it would be “be days if not weeks/months before they all come back online.” However, Nystedt, who is also based in Taiwan, noted that all the main semiconductor production areas are located in the west of the country “where there are no reports of major damage as of now.” According to him, the disruption is “an interruption only.” 

As per our friends at PC Gamer, the latest quake is yet another reminder of how vulnerable the world’s chip supply really is. As noted by Bloomberg, TSMC has been pushed by American officials to diversity, also citing that the U.S. is “mindful of the threat to Taiwan from a mainland Chinese government that considers the island a renegade province.” Projects in Japan and the U.S. are “now underway” but “will take time to get up to full speed.” 

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9