Taiwan's strongest earthquake in 25 years kills 9 people, 50 missing

Taiwan's strongest earthquake in 25 years kills 9 people, 50 missing

HUALIEN, Taiwan--Taiwan's biggest earthquake in at least 25 years killed nine people on Wednesday and injured more than 900, while 50 workers travelling in minibuses to a hotel in a national park were missing. Some buildings tilted at precarious angles in the mountainous, sparsely populated county of Hualien, near the epicentre of the 7.2 magnitude quake, which struck just offshore at about 8 a. m. and triggered massive landslides. As darkness fell, some people were spending the night in tents and other shelters. Meanwhile scores of emergency workers were trying to shore up damaged buildings and demolish those deemed impossible to save. "The Uranus building behind us is a very badly damaged place. It is a building with one basement level and nine floors above ground. The first and second floors are now underground," Deputy Acting Chief of Hualien Fire Department Lee Lung-Sheng said. Hualien city mayor Hsu Chen-Wei said all residents and businesses in buildings that were in a dangerous state had been evacuated. Demolition work was beginning on four buildings, the mayor said. More than 50 aftershocks were recorded, weather officials said. "I'm afraid of aftershocks, and I don't know how bad the shaking will be," a 52-year-old Hualien resident, who gave her family name as Yu, said as she made her way to a shelter. The power of the quake was captured live as news anchors delivered their breakfast bulletins, steadying themselves against giant screens as their sets swayed and lighting rigs rocked back and forth overhead. The earthquake hit at a depth of 15.5 km (9.6 miles), as people were headed for work and school, setting off a tsunami warning for southern Japan and the Philippines that was later lifted. Video showed rescuers using ladders to help trapped people out of windows. Strong tremors in Taipei forced the subway system to close briefly, although most lines resumed service. Fire authorities said they had already evacuated some 70 people trapped in tunnels near Hualien city, including two Germans. But they had lost contact with 50 workers aboard four minibuses heading to a hotel in a national park, Taroko Gorge, they said, and rescuers were looking for them. Another 80 people are trapped in a mining area, though it was not immediately clear if they were inside a mine. On a highway through the mountains, huge boulders from a landslide were strewn across the road. The Fire Bureau of Taichung City Government said it rescued a man in his 50s who was unconscious in a truck. A woman who runs bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Hualien city said she scrambled to calm her guests. "This is the biggest earthquake I have ever experienced," said the woman, who asked to be identified only by her family name, Chan. The government put the number of injured at 946.

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