Hualien quake death toll reaches 10

NOT OVER::Rescue work at the Marshal Hotel and two buildings on Guosheng 6th Street has been completed, but work at the Yun Men Tsui Ti building was continuing

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Feb 09, 2018 - Page 1

The death toll from the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that shook the nation on Tuesday rose to 10 as of press time last night as rescuers continued their efforts to locate victims trapped in the debris of collapsed or partially collapsed buildings in Hualien City.

As of 6pm, statistics from the Central Emergency Operation Center showed that five of the deceased were Taiwanese, three were Chinese and one a Philippine woman.

The identity and nationality of another female body had yet to be ascertained.

Seven were found in the Yun Men Tsui Ti (雲門翠堤) commercial and residential building, which suffered the severest earthquake damage.

The number of people who sustained injuries in the disaster rose to 270 as the rescue operation continued for a second day, the center said, adding that the number of persons unaccounted for had been reduced to seven.

The missing persons were all believed to have been in the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, the center added.

The National Fire Agency rejected media reports that the Yun Men Tsui Ti building was still tilting at a rate of 5cm per hour.

“The building’s structure is still relatively stable,” National Fire Agency Director-General Chen Wen-lung (陳文龍) said.

Rescue work at the building has continued, despite multiple aftershocks, Chen said, adding that the agency has adopted several measures to ensure the safety of rescue workers.

Statistics from the Central Weather Bureau showed that 235 aftershocks have occurred since the main earthquake on Tuesday night.

Five of the aftershocks reached magnitude 5.0, including a magnitude 5.7 aftershock at 11:21pm on Wednesday.

Forty were between magnitude 4.0 and magnitude 5.0, the bureau said, adding that the rest of the aftershocks were below magnitude 4.0.

“As a series of aftershocks have happened within such a short period and a few of them even reached magnitude 5.0, it might take us two to three weeks or even a month before the situation becomes stable,” Seismological Center section head Lin Tzu-wei (林祖慰) said.

Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁) said that rescue work at the Marshal Hotel (統帥飯店) and two apartment buildings on Guosheng 6th Street — the three other most severely damaged buildings in the city — was completed yesterday, adding that rescue work at the Yun Men Tsui Ti building was ongoing.

Fu said that the county government would deploy large excavators to remove the ruins of the three buildings at 6am today.

Excavation of the Yun Men Tsui Ti building would not begin until after the rescue work has been completed and following a joint consultation meeting with the Taiwan Professional Civil Engineers Association, the National Association of Architects and the Hualien District Prosecutors’ Office, Fu said.

Families of the deceased, regardless of whether they were Taiwanese or foreigners, would receive NT$600,000 (US$20,415) from the county government, while residents who lost their homes in the three residential buildings would receive NT$200,000, Fu said, adding that they should remain in the shelters set up by the county government.

The number of people staying at the shelters increased to 702 yesterday, Central Emergency Operation Center data showed.

The county government would strive to complete the resettlement of the victims and the rebuilding of the destroyed buildings in the shortest time frame possible, Fu said.

Meanwhile, the number of schools damaged in this week’s earthquakes yesterday rose to 158, with losses estimated at more than NT$80 million.

Of the 47 affected schools in Hualien County, Zhongzheng Elementary School suffered the most damage, estimated at NT$16 million, the Ministry of Education said.

Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) yesterday inspected damaged schools in the county and said the ministry would send professionals to examine the structural damage to the buildings and allocate NT$30 million for repairs and reconstruction.

Hualien County’s electricity had been fully restored by 1pm yesterday, but at 6pm the water supply to 9,000 households was still cut off due to leaking pipes.

Eight telecom base stations had yet to be repaired.

Additional reporting by Ann Maxon