Taiwan: earthquake overturns buildings, at least 7 dead

Ⓒ AFP – PAUL YANG – | A building overthrown by the magnitude 6.4 earthquake
in Hualien, Taiwan, February 7, 2018

Falling buildings, collapsed ground floors: rescuers were
working hard Wednesday night in the Taiwanese city of Hualien
to find survivors after an earthquake that left at least seven
people dead and 260 wounded.

According to firefighters, 67 people were still missing late
Wednesday night, a day after the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that
rocked this quaint port on the eastern coast, one of Taiwan’s
most popular tourist destinations.

Under the effect of the earthquake, the lower floors of a
12-story residential complex collapsed on their own.

This group, called Yun Tsui, which also housed a restaurant,
shops and a hotel, leaned dangerously and this is where the
rescuers have long concentrated their efforts.

Dozens of people were saved from the building by ropes and
ladders. But at least four corpses were removed from the
rubble, and 52 occupants of the building – 39 residents and 12
guests of the hotel located on the lower floors – were still
missing on Wednesday night, according to firefighters.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | Earthquake in Taiwan

– Violent replicas –

The search resumed at dusk, in the spotlight, after being
suspended for a few hours lest the building collapse
completely. Engineers strove to consolidate the structure with
concrete blocks and steel joists, and using four mobile
cranes.

Rescue operations were continually interrupted by violent
aftershocks, each time requiring rescuers to run for
safety.

An inhabitant of the neighborhood told AFP that he saw the
Yun Tsui rocking. “I saw the first floor sink into the ground,
then it continued to sink and lean further, and the fourth
floor became the ground floor,” Lu Chih-son explained. years,
who attended the rescue of twenty people.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – YANG JEN-FU – | Two people are escorted by rescuers from the damaged
Marshal Hotel in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, on the night of
February 6-7, 2018, after a massive earthquake struck the
island

“My family is unscathed but a neighbor has been wounded in
the head and he is bleeding, we do not dare to go home, there
are many aftershocks”.

Chen Chih-wei, 80, slept in his top floor apartment at the
time of the earthquake. “My bed was vertical, I was sleeping
and all of a sudden I was up,” he said, adding that it was the
most powerful earthquake in more than a half – century passed
to Hualien.

– ‘panicked tourists’ –

Ⓒ AFP – PAUL YANG – | A building collapsed during a powerful earthquake in
Hualien on February 7, 2018 in Taiwan

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the scene on
Wednesday. “This is a crucial moment for relief, our first
priority is to save lives,” she said on Facebook.

Five other buildings, including a hospital and a hotel, were
also damaged. The roads were disemboweled and covered with
debris.

Many people did not dare to go home because of the
aftershocks. Some 830 people were sheltering in shelters and
nearly 2,000 homes were without electricity.

The first floors of the Marshal Hotel were flattened in the
aftermath of the tremors. “The lower floors have sunk into the
ground and I saw the rescue of tourists panicked,” told AFP an
inhabitant, Blue Hsu.

The epicenter of the earthquake on
Tuesday just before midnight (1550 GMT) was about 20 kilometers
northeast of Hualien, according to the USGS geological
institute.

Nearly a hundred other minor quakes had preceded the
earthquake in the same region in the past three days.

Exactly two years ago, an earthquake of the same magnitude
killed more than 100 people in Tainan, in the south-west of the
island. Most of the victims died in the collapse of a 16-storey
residential complex.

The construction techniques of the ensemble had been called
into question in the aftermath of the disaster. Five people
were sentenced to five years in prison in this case, including
two architects and a real estate developer.

The island of Taiwan, located at the junction of two
tectonic plates, is regularly shaken by earthquakes. The
deadliest of the last decades, of magnitude 7.6, had made about
2,400 dead in September 1999.

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