The Eye on Taiwan news staff
At least six people were killed, 258 others injured and 67 missing as a magnitude-6 earthquake hit Hualien in eastern Taiwan late Tuesday.
The quake, which struck at a depth of just 10 kilometers near the Hualien County Hall and came after a spate of tremors in the past few days, caused severe damage to four buildings, including a hotel, and three apartment buildings, police 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 by the rubble.
Yumen Tsuiti Building suffered the most severe damage and was tilted 45 degrees, police said adding the first and the second floors of the building were totally crushed.
Firefighters rescued two people, who died on the way to the hospital, police said. As of 8:30 pm Wednesday, 67 people were still unaccounted for.
There were 72 households and a small hotel — Beautiful Stay — at the 12-story apartment building.
Kilometers away, two people were trapped as the 12-story Marshal Hotel caved in while the quake shook Hualien, police said.
Rescuers managed to comb through the rubble of the hotel building and pull two hotel staffers out, but one of them already showed no vital sign, police said.
Another hotel employee, identified as Liang Shu-wei, 26, was able to walk by himself, police said, adding he took shelter under the counter desk and survived after he was trapped for 14 hours.
(Video clip provided by Keng Sheng Daily News)
Two other residential buildings also suffered damage, but no casualties were reported.
So far, 258 people, including 27 seriously, were injured, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center. Two of the seriously injured later died in the hospital, 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.
Police said the two bridges, Suao-Hualien Highway and the Central Taiwan Cross-Island Highway were all temporarily suspended for safety concerns.
Many residents and business operators in Hualien reported damage as the quake shook objects off from shelves and tables.
The epicenter of the strong quake, which struck at 11:50 pm was located at the sea about 18.3 kilometers east of the Hualien County Hall at a depth of just 10 kilometers, the Central Weather Bureau said.
The quake was felt islandwide, with Intensity No 7 reported in eastern and northeastern Taiwan and Intensity No 5 in central and northern Taiwan, including Taipei. It was followed by a series of aftershocks in the next several hours, the bureau said.
The tremor 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.
“It was terrible. Everything inside the apartment moved and some objects fell down from the table. We later rushed to the street,” said a resident in downtown Ximending, Taipei.
The Cabinet later set up an emergency center to deal with the disaster, a government spokesman said, adding a rescue team made up of 600 rescuers and military servicemen was dispatched for the rescue operation.
Tuesday’s quake followed a spate of earthquakes, including a magnitude-5.8 that had rocked eastern Taiwan since Feb 4. More than 100 aftershocks were reported, 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 tremor of a series of earthquakes which had struck eastern Taiwan in the past few days.
But he also did not rule out the possibility that the magnitude-6 temblor could be the prelude of an even bigger quake that might bring serious damage to the island.