Taiwan Hastens Rescue Operation for 18 Lives Following a Debilitating Quake with 400 Aftershocks

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Rescue teams in Taiwan are working tirelessly to locate 18 individuals, including foreigners, still missing after the island was hit by its strongest earthquake in 25 years on Wednesday.

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The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.4, has resulted in 12 confirmed deaths, as reported by authorities, with over 1,000 people sustaining injuries.

Taiwan’s Fire Department announced the discovery of two additional bodies in the mountains, indicating that the death toll might increase further.

Among the missing are identified as nationals from Australia and Canada, as rescue efforts intensify to reach hundreds still isolated due to debris blocking access to their hotels, campgrounds, or workplaces in Hualien’s eastern region.

Overnight, at least 50 aftershocks were felt, even as far as Taipei, following the initial 400 tremors recorded from Wednesday into Thursday night by the Central Weather Administration.

Around 400 individuals trapped in a premium hotel within Taroko Gorge national park have been confirmed safe, with helicopters evacuating the injured and delivering essentials.

“Rain poses a threat of rockfalls and landslides, our current biggest hurdles,” mentioned Su Yu-ming, head of a rescue squad, to Reuters.

Given the unpredictability of these natural events, the exact duration needed for search and rescue operations remains uncertain.

Nearly 700 people are still cut off, primarily hotel employees and guests in the national park, though authorities assure they are safe with sufficient supplies, and road repair efforts to the hotel are nearing completion. Another group of 10 hotel workers were stranded in different parts of the park, although most have been rescued or managed to leave on foot.

Fifty workers heading to the hotel who found themselves trapped were eventually rescued.

David Chen, a 63-year-old security manager at the hotel, shared his harrowing experience, “We were in total fear, especially right when the earthquake struck. We feared the worst…”

As they evacuated, they had to dodge falling rocks, guided by the search and rescue team.

Premier Chen Chien-je visited a disaster response center in Hualien, while the federal government has earmarked NT$300m (£7.41m) for recovery efforts.

Japan announced a $1m (£791,750) donation to assist Taiwan with rescue and recovery activities.

Following the aftershocks, around 200 residents from Hualien County stayed in temporary shelters, with the main road to Taipei still inaccessible.

“The aftershocks were horrifying,” shared Yu, a 52-year-old from Hualien, “It’s relentless. I’m too scared to stay indoors.”

In a dramatic operation, a helicopter rescued six miners stranded on a cliff, illustrating the quake’s impact on Hualien’s mountainous regions.

The Agriculture Ministry has warned against mountain visits due to the risks of falling debris and potential “barrier lakes” forming behind unstable blockages.

Helicopter missions confirmed the safety of all 400 individuals in a hotel in Taroko Gorge, cut off by the earthquake, with efforts to reopen the road set to continue.

In the city, residents lined up outside a severely damaged 10-story building, eager to retrieve their belongings under supervision, with a limited window to collect their valuables.

“This building is uninhabitable now,” Tian Liang-si said as she hurried to secure her laptop, family photos, and other essentials, recalling the quake’s chaos.

Among the deceased, at least four were within Taroko National Park, with additional fatalities reported in a building and at Ho Ren Quarry.

Hualien was previously affected by a fatal earthquake in 2018, resulting in 17 deaths. Taiwan’s most devastating recent earthquake was on September 21, 1999, a 7.7 magnitude quake causing 2,400 deaths, injuring around 100,000, and destroying numerous buildings.

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