The Eye on Taiwan news staff
Rescuers combed through the rubble of a collapsed residential building to try to look for about 60 missing people as another strong quake struck again late in the night Wednesday, a day after a powerful quake rattled Hualien in eastern Taiwan.
At least seven people were killed and 262 others injured as the magnitude 6 quake struck at a depth of just 10 kilometers near the Hualien County Hall before midnight Tuesday, the Central Emergency Operation Center said.
Rescuers had to temporarily stop their operation when a magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck at 11:21 pm Wednesday, center officials said.
Rescue workers were battling through dangerous conditions to search for the survivors, who had been trapped for 24 hours since the magnitude 6 quake hit the coastal county.
The rescue operation was several times interrupted by strong aftershocks, the officials said, referring to a magnitude 4.7 quake reported on Wednesday afternoon and a magnitude 5.7 one late in the night.
Four buildings, including a hotel, collapsed in the quake, trapping dozens of people. There were also reports of roads and bridges damaged by the quake, the center said.
Yumen Tsuti Building suffered the worst hit, tilting dangerously as its first and second floors caved in. Many of the missing people were believed to be trapped as the building — which housed a small hotel, Happy Stay, and a hot-pot restaurant — wedged into the ground.
A rescue team consisting 600 experienced rescuers and civil engineers was later organized for the rescue operation. Search dogs, helicopters, and thermal imaging equipment were used to find victims or survivors, the center said.
President Tsai Ing-wen led a group of officials to survey the damage Wednesday morning and ordered that relevant authorities do all they could to rescue people trapped in any of the four buildings.
Earlier, rescuers pulled two men from the rubble of Marshal Hotel, which caved in when the quake struck. One of them died and the other survived. Both were employees of the hotel, the center said.
More than 800 people were evacuated to safety, police said. Some road surfaces, including those of the Hualien Bridge and Qixingtan Bridge, were found to have visible cracks caused by the earthquake, police said.
The quake was felt islandwide. It sent residents living in high-rise buildings in Taipei fleeing into streets in panic as the buildings shook in a horizontal direction for almost a minute.
Tuesday’s quake was one of a spate of earthquakes, including a magnitude-5.8 that had rocked eastern Taiwan since Feb 4. More than 200 aftershocks had been reported since then, according to the Central Weather Bureau.
Chen Kuo-chang, acting director of the bureau’s seismology center, said Tuesday’s earthquake should be the most powerful one among the spate of earthquakes occurring in the past several days.
But he said he did not rule out the possibility of an even more powerful one that could take place in the near future.