Five dead in Hualien after magnitude 6.0 quake

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 1

Eastern and northern Taiwan were rocked by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake at 11:50pm on Tuesday night, which killed at least five people. injured 254 and badly damaged at least four buildings in Hualien.

The Central Weather Bureau said the quake’s epicenter was 18.3km northeast of Hualien County Hall, at a depth of 10km, which is relatively shallow.

The impact of the temblor was strengthened by its high intensity in certain areas, with Hualien City and Yilan County’s Nanao Township (南澳) registering a level of 7 — the highest on the nation’s 7-tier intensity scale.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake’s magnitude at 6.4, and said it was the result of oblique strike-slip faulting at shallow depth near the plate boundary between the Philippine Sea and Eurasia plates in Taiwan’s northeast coast.

The Central Weather Bureau said the intensity of Tuesday night’s quake and the number of its foreshocks and aftershocks are higher than have ever been recorded in the region. It warned that more aftershocks are to be expected, while big temblors are also possible.

Between the magnitude 6.0 temblor on Tuesday and 1pm yesterday 150 aftershocks were recorded, including four that were magnitude 5.0 or higher, bureau data showed.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Central Emergency Operations Center said 224 people had been rescued and 88 remained unaccounted for.

Four of the dead were found in the partially collapsed Yun Men Tsui Ti (雲門翠堤), a residential/commercial building that includes a restaurant and a backpacker’s hostel, while the other one was an employee at the Marshal Hotel (統帥大飯店).

Dozens of people were rescued overnight with ropes and ladders from the 12-story Yun Men Tsui Ti, which is tilting at 40˚ angle.

Thirty-nine people with household registrations in the building are unaccounted for, as well as 17 people staying in the hostel on the first to third floors of the building.

Rescuers were working yesterday to reach two more employees of the Marshal Hotel trapped in the building who had earlier responded to search teams.

Authorities said the injured included Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean nationals.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited Hualien yesterday morning to inspect the rescue operations and visit with the survivors.

Many of the streets in Hualien City, which has a population of about 100,000 people, were buckled by the force of the quake.

A Hualien resident who lives near the Yun Men Tsui Ti told Agence France-Presse he had seen the building 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,” the wire agency quoted Lu Chih-son, 35, as saying.

Tuesday night’s earthquake came on the two-year anniversary of the magnitude 6.4 quake that struck southern Taiwan, toppling the Weiguan Jinlong residential complex in Tainan’s Yongkang District (永康).

A total of 116 were killed in the 2016 temblor.

This story has been updated since it was first published.