Taiwan: Death toll rises to 12 from earthquake - Over 700 trapped in tunnels

Many remain trapped in a national park as some roads are impassable due to rockfall and landslides

Screenshot 2 3 RESCUERS, EARTHQUAKE, Taiwan

Rescuers in Taiwan freed people trapped in tunnels and a remote hotel today, while still searching for others still missing after the island's strongest earthquake in 25 years.

The death toll from Wednesday's earthquake in sparsely populated Hualien province has risen to 12 after two more bodies were found, while many more people remain trapped in a national park as some roads are impassable due to falling rocks and landslides.

"The rain increases the risk of rockfall and landslides which are currently the biggest challenges," rescuers say.

About 50 aftershocks were recorded overnight, some of which were felt as far away as Taipei.

Rescuers said the nearly 400 people trapped in a luxury hotel in Taroko Gorge National Park were safe and helicopters were evacuating the injured and delivering food to the rest.

Landslides hamper the work of rescuers


"The rain increases the risk of rockfall and landslides, which are currently the biggest challenges" we face, said So Yu-ming, head of a search and rescue team.

"These factors are not predictable, which means we cannot say how many days it will take for search and rescue operations," he added.

At the same time in Hualien City, workers began using a crane to demolish the Uranus Building, which has tilted 45 degrees after the earthquake and the collapse of half of its first floor.

According to the national disaster agency, more than 700 people remain trapped in tunnels or in isolated areas, but are in contact with rescuers.

Eighteen people are still missing, three of whom are foreigners – Australians and Canadians.

"All safe"

Today nine people were freed alive from a passage, called the "nine bend tunnel", located in the Taroko Gorge, a popular tourist destination.

At the same time, rescuers dropped food and equipment by helicopter to people who have taken refuge in a school in an isolated area.

Nine people trapped in the luxury Silks Place Taroko hotel were evacuated by helicopter. Nine people trapped in the luxury Silks Place Taroko hotel were also evacuated by helicopter as it is now inaccessible by road.

About 50 people, including one Briton and four Germans, who are in a hostel, are waiting for the roads to open, according to a worker.

"We are all safe and have sufficient supplies. The damaged roads are being repaired," said the worker, expressing hope that they would be able to leave within the day.

Earthquakes are common in Taiwan, as the island sits above the point where two tectonic plates meet.

For this reason, the anti-seismic regulation is particularly strict, while there is good preparation for natural disasters, two factors that seem to have prevented major damage from the earthquake.

In September 1999 a 7,6-magnitude earthquake killed 2.400 people in the worst disaster in Taiwan's modern history.

Source: in.gr