Rescuers in Taiwan search for missing as earthquake death toll rises to 10

Rescuers are searching for dozens of people still missing a day after Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in a quarter of a century damaged buildings, killed 10 people and left others stranded in remote areas.

In the eastern coastal city of Hualien near the epicentre, workers used an excavator to stabilise the base of a damaged building with construction materials as officials took samples of its exterior and chickens pecked among potted plants on its slanted roof.

Mayor Hsu Chen-wei said 48 residential buildings were damaged in Wednesday’s quake, some of which were tilting at precarious angles with their ground floors crushed.

Some local rail services to Hualien resumed, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, one of the world’s most important manufacturers of computer chips, restarted most operations, the Central News Agency reported.

Taiwan is regularly jolted by earthquakes and its population is well prepared for them.

It also has stringent construction requirements to ensure buildings are quake resistant.

Hendri Sutrisno, a 30-year-old professor at Hualien Dong Hwa University, spent Wednesday night in a tent with his wife and baby, fearing aftershocks.

“We ran out of the apartment and waited for four to five hours before we went up again to grab some important stuff such as our wallet. And then we’re staying here ever since to assess the situation,” he said.

Others also said they did not dare to go home because the walls of their apartments were cracked or they lived on higher floors.

Taiwanese Premier Chen Chien-jen visited some earthquake evacuees in the morning at a temporary shelter.

Rocks on the road at the entrance of Taroko National Park in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan
Rocks on the road at the entrance of Taroko National Park in Hualien county, eastern Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Of the 10 dead, at least four were killed inside Taroko National Park, a Hualien county tourist attraction famous for canyons and cliffs about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Taipei.

One person was found dead in a damaged building and another was found in the Ho Ren Quarry.

Authorities on Thursday afternoon retrieved a body from a trail.

About 700 people were either still missing or stranded on Thursday, including more than 600 who were stranded inside a hotel called Silks Place Taroko, the National Fire Agency said.

Authorities said the employees and guests were safe and had food and water, and that work to repair the roads to the hotel was close to completion.

Others who were reported to be stranded, including two dozen tourists, about 20 campers and six university students, were also safe, they said.

Authorities also said about 60 workers who had been unable to leave a quarry because of blocked and damaged roads were freed.

A police officer stands guard near a partially collapsed building a day after a powerful earthquake struck in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan
A police officer stands guard near a partially collapsed building a day after a powerful earthquake struck in Hualien (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Six workers from another quarry were airlifted out.

Authorities have not been able to contact about 40 people, mostly hotel employees earlier reported to be in the national park.

After the quake, local television showed neighbours and rescue workers lifting residents through windows and on to the street from damaged buildings where the shaking had jammed doors shut.

It was not clear on Thursday if any people were still trapped in buildings.

The quake and its aftershocks caused landslides and damaged roads, bridges and tunnels.

The national legislature and sections of Taipei’s main airport suffered minor damage.

The earthquake was the strongest to hit Taiwan in 25 years.

Debris surrounds a tilted building a day after a powerful earthquake struck, in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan
Debris surrounds a tilted building in Hualien (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Huang Shiao-en was in her apartment when the quake struck.

“At first the building was swinging side to side, and then it shook up and down,” Ms Huang said.

The Central Weather Administration recorded more than 300 aftershocks from Wednesday morning into Thursday.

The economic losses caused by the quake are still unclear.

The self-governed island is the leading manufacturer of the world’s most sophisticated computer chips and other high-technology items that are sensitive to seismic events.

Hualien was last struck by a deadly quake in 2018 which killed 17 people and brought down a historic hotel.

Taiwan’s worst recent earthquake struck on September 21 1999, a magnitude 7.7 quake that caused 2,400 deaths, injured around 100,000 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.

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