Taiwan earthquake: Rescue operations ongoing as death toll reaches 12

The death toll has climbed to 10 people after a deadly earthquake struck Taiwan

Rescuers continued the search Friday for dozens of people still missing after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan, killed at least 12 people and injured more than 1,000.

The quake struck the sparsely populated, largely rural eastern county of Hualien, stranding hundreds in a national park as boulders barreled down mountains, cutting off roads. The death toll rose after searchers found two more bodies in the mountains, Taiwan's fire department said. Rescue efforts have been complicated bad weather. 

"Rain increases the risks of rockfalls and landslides, which are currently the biggest challenges," Su Yu-ming, the leader of a search and rescue team, told Reuters. "These factors are unpredictable, which means we cannot confirm the number of days required for the search and rescue operations."

Buildings across the island nation tilt at odd angles and threaten to collapse as workers attempt to stabilize the structures. In the city of Hualien, near the epicenter on Taiwan's east coast, Mayor Hsu Chen-wei said 48 residential buildings were damaged by Wednesday's quake and subsequent aftershocks, according to the Associated Press. 


A building tilts after a powerful earthquake struck Taiwan

Debris surrounds a titled building a day after a powerful earthquake struck, in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan, Thursday, April 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Though some Hualien residents are staying in tents, life on the island is beginning to return to normal. Some local rail service in Hualien has resumed and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a global leader in computer chip manufacturing, has restarted operations, the Central News Agency reported, per the AP.

Residents of damaged buildings have been evacuated to temporary shelters while work continues to prevent collapses.

Firefighters evacuate a body from a quarry in Taiwan

In this photo released by the Hualien Fire Department, firefighters and quarry workers evacuate a body from the Ho Ren Quarry a day after a powerful earthquake struck in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan, Thursday, April 4, 2024. Rescuers are searching for people out of contact a day after Taiwan's strongest earthquake in a quarter-century damaged buildings, caused multiple rockslides and killed several people. (Hualien Fire Department via AP)

Nearly 1,070 people were injured in the quake. Of the 10 dead, at least four were killed inside Taroko National Park, a Hualien county tourist attraction famous for canyons and cliffs about 90 miles from Taipei. One person was found dead in a damaged building and another was found in the Ho Ren Quarry. Authorities on Thursday afternoon retrieved a body from a trail.

About 700 people were either still missing or stranded Thursday, including over 600 who were stranded inside a hotel called Silks Place Taroko, the National Fire Agency said. Authorities said the employees and guests were safe and had food and water, and that work to repair the roads to the hotel was close to completion.

Others reported to be stranded, including two dozen tourists, about 20 campers and six university students were also found safe, they said.

A police officer stands near partially collapsed building in Taiwan

A police officer stands guard near a partially collapsed building a day after a powerful earthquake struck in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan, Thursday, April 4, 2024.  (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Authorities said some 60 workers who were trapped in a quarry because of blocked or damaged roads were freed. Central News Agency reported the workers were able to leave the mountain safely around noon. Six workers at another quarry were rescued by airlift. 

A group of 50 hotel workers marooned on a road to the national park are now mostly safe, authorities said Friday. 

Video and images on social media showed buildings shaken off their foundations during Wednesday's quake. A five-story building in lightly populated Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle.


Engineers take samples from building struck by earthquake in Taiwan

A structural engineer takes samples from a leaning building a day after a powerful earthquake struck, in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan, Thursday, April 4, 2024.  (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

It is unclear Friday if people remain trapped in buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the 9.6 mile quake at a 7.4 magnitude, while Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave it a magnitude of 7.2. The effects of the earthquake were felt as far away as Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island off the coast of China, said Wu Chien-fu, the head of Taiwan's earthquake monitoring bureau.

Multiple aftershocks were recorded, and the USGS said one of the subsequent quakes measured 6.5 magnitude and 7.8 miles deep. 

The quake was believed to be the biggest in Taiwan since a temblor in 1999 caused extensive damage. Taiwan lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world's earthquakes occur.

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