Workers placed steel beams to stabilize a dangerously tilted building while rescuers on the other side try to pull survivors from their residences Thursday, more than a day after quake shook Taiwan’s east coast and killed at least nine people.
The Yunmen Tsuiti building was one of several damaged by late Tuesday’s magnitude-6.4 quake. At least four midsized buildings in worst-hit Hualien county leaned at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, glass, iron and other debris. Firefighters climbed ladders hoisted against windows to reach residents inside apartments.
Residents at temporary shelters set up in Hualien City described the terror of the powerful quake and their immediate worry for loved ones. Chen Chu-rong, 52, said she wasn’t home when the quake toppled the walls of her building, but her son was and he had to climb down from their second floor unit.
“That fear is still there,” she said. “I’m still afraid because things kept on falling down.”
The National Fire Agency revised the death toll down to nine people after rescuers double-counted one person killed. More than 260 people were injured and 23 were unaccounted for. At least three of the dead were tourists from the mainland, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry said nine Japanese were among the injured. Six mainland Chinese were also injured, the Chinese Communist Party-run People’s Daily reported.
President Tsai Ing-wen reassured the public every effort would be made to rescue survivors. On her Facebook page, Tsai said she “ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people, while keeping their own safety in mind.”
At the Yunmen Tsuiti building, clothes and other personal items were visible on the balconies as the rescue work continued.
The shifting of the buildings was likely caused by soil liquefaction, when the ground loses its solidity under stress such as the shaking of an earthquake. The quake also buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his country was dispatching a rescue team to help in the search effort.
Taiwan has frequent earthquakes due to its position along the “Ring of Fire,” the seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. A quake two years ago collapsed an apartment complex in southern Taiwan, killing 115 people. Five people involved in the construction of the complex were found guilty of negligence and given prison sentences.
A magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan killed more than 2,300 people in 1999.