Aftershocks hampered rescue efforts on Thursday as emergency personnel searched through collapsed buildings in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake killed at least 10 people near Taiwan’s tourist city of Hualien.
The coastal city was hit on Tuesday by a magnitude 6.4 quake just before midnight (11.00 a.m ET) that injured 270 people. Four buildings collapsed, officials said, and seven people were still missing.
Rescuers stepped up efforts at one of the worst-hit structures, a 12-storey building that housed apartments and a small hotel, where authorities believe most of those still missing to have been, including several foreigners.
Thick steel girders propped up the heavily leaning structure to keep it from collapsing further, with the lower floors having already caved in.
“Everyone was surprised,” said Huang Chang Po, the 58-year-old owner of a unit in the building, built in 1994.
“We have strong earthquakes all the time in Hualien and it’s really bizarre that our building collapsed,” he told Reuters.
Up to 100 soldiers, rescuers, police, aid workers and volunteers scrambled in the cold and rain outside to find survivors, as excavators cleared away debris.
At an emergency meeting on Thursday, other residents and owners raised concerns about possible recent modifications and demanded a structural check by engineers to determine the cause of the collapse.
More than 220 aftershocks followed the main quake, including a 5.7 quake late on Wednesday.
As many as 150 people were initially feared missing in the rubble.
More than 600 soldiers and 1,300 police spread out to help the rescue effort, along with a team from Japan. The government said three mainland Chinese were among the dead. (Agencies)