Death Toll Rises to 10 in Taiwan Earthquake; Rescue Efforts Continue for People Stranded at Taroko Gorge

Ichiro Ohara / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Taiwan’s military personnel stand near a tilted building in central Hualien, eastern Taiwan, on Friday.

HUALIEN, Taiwan — The death toll from the powerful earthquake in Taiwan has risen to 10 as of Friday morning, according to Taiwan authorities. A total of 1,106 people have been injured, with 18 people still unaccounted for.

Demolition work began Friday on a tilted building in downtown Hualien, eastern Taiwan, whose lower floors collapsed in the earthquake Wednesday.

After the main quake, more than 480 tremors had been recorded in Hualien and other areas by about 7 a.m. on Friday. With rain expected in Hualien over the weekend, there is a possibility of secondary disasters such as landslides and rockfalls.

Taiwan’s military, police and fire departments have mobilized about 8,200 personnel for the rescue operation, which is utilizing aircraft and other equipment.

On Thursday, firefighters aboard a helicopter rescued several people who were trapped in a mine.

According to Taiwan’s United Daily News, more than 20 people were rescued from a collapsed building in Hualien after more than eight hours of search and rescue efforts.

However, a woman in her 30s died after being trapped between the first and second floors of a building that collapsed during a tremor minutes after the quake. She had gone back to rescue her cat.

Taiwan’s premier, Chen Chien-jen, visited a disaster response center in Hualien on Thursday to assess the damage. He also visited a hospital treating some of the injured people.

Rescue from Taroko Gorge

Several tourists were rescued Friday morning, about 48 hours after the quake. They had been stranded in a hotel located along the Taroko Gorge, a tourist attraction in Hualien.

With at least 700 people still stranded, helicopter and other rescue efforts have been underway since early morning.

Nine of those stranded in the hotel were rescued by helicopter in the first round of rescue missions at about 8:10 a.m. Friday, according to a senior official of the fire department.

They were taken to a rescue control center at the base of the gorge.

An elderly woman with an injury to her right leg expressed relief when she arrived at the rescue center. A young girl rescued with her pregnant mother likewise smiled with relief as the paramedics handed her a sweet bun.

According to paramedics on the scene, pregnant women and elderly people with chronic illnesses are given priority in rescue operations.

Ambulances wait in the vicinity to transport the seriously ill and injured, and helicopters pass overhead.

About 100 people remain stranded at an elementary school near the gorge. A helicopter dropped food to them on Friday morning.

According to the rescue team, the roads and footpaths in the canyon are rife with rockfall that is preventing them from advancing.

Rescuers are searching for six lost hikers. Another 28 people are awaiting rescue at campsites and other locations.

When interviewed by the media at the rescue control center, the rescue team leader said that they would continue working hard to rescue everyone.