Buildings tilt on sides as earthquake hits Taiwan

Written by on February 8, 2018

Rescue workers pulled survivors and bodies from buildings tilting precariously in the Taiwanese city of Hualien Wednesday, after an overnight earthquake killed at least seven people, injured more than 250 and left dozens missing.

Emergency responders were focusing on a 12-storey apartment block and a nearby hotel, both of which were leaning dangerously with their lower floors pancaked after the 6.4-magnitude quake hit the popular tourist city late Tuesday.

The national fire agency said seven people had been killed across the city, and 260 were injured.

Some 67 people remained unaccounted for late Wednesday evening.

There were grave concerns for the badly leaning Yun Tsui residential building, which also housed a restaurant, shops and a hostel.
Dozens of residents  and several pets were rescued with ropes, ladders and cranes.

But fire department staff at the site told AFP at least four bodies had been pulled out of the building in the day.

Of those still missing, the Hualien disaster relief centre said, 39 are residents at the apartment block and 13 are guests at the Beauty Stay Hotel, which is on the bottom floors of the Yun Tsui building.

One of the people killed at the apartment block was a woman from mainland China, authorities said.

Officials temporarily suspended rescue efforts over fears the building might slip further as engineers raced to push large concrete blocks and steel bars to support the leaning side.

Rescue efforts began again as night fell, with emergency responders wielding crowbars and torches to search the lower floors for survivors.

Continual aftershocks forced rescuers searching the apartment block to run for safety every time they struck. The rescuers went back inside when the tremors stopped.

One resident who lives nearby told AFP how he watched the tower block partially collapse.

“I saw the first floor sink into the ground. Then it sank and tilted further and the fourth floor became the first floor,” said Lu Chih-son, 35, who saw 20 people rescued from the building.

“My family were unhurt, but a neighbour was injured in their head and is bleeding. We dare not go back home now. There are many aftershocks and we are worried the house is damaged,” he told AFP.

Chen Chih-wei, 80, said he was sleeping in his apartment on the top floor of the building when the quake struck.

“My bed turned completely vertical. I was sleeping and suddenly I was standing,” he told AFP.

Chen said he managed to crawl to a balcony to wait for rescue, adding that the quake was the strongest he had felt in more than five decades of living in Hualien.

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