Taiwan earthquake: Rescue operations hindered by landslide and rockfall threats, death toll reaches 12

Rescuers in Taiwan combated the danger of additional landslides and rockfalls on Friday as they searched for a dozen missing individuals following this week's earthquake, which has now claimed 12 lives.

Publication: 05.04.2024 - 13:41
Taiwan earthquake: Rescue operations hindered by landslide and rockfall threats, death toll reaches 12
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The magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Wednesday hit Hualien, a sparsely populated and largely rural county in eastern Taiwan, triggering landslides that stranded hundreds in a national park and severed roads with tumbling boulders.

Approximately 50 aftershocks shook the region overnight, reaching as far as Taipei. Officials reported about 400 people trapped in a luxury hotel in Taroko Gorge National Park were safe, as helicopters evacuated the injured and delivered supplies. "Rain increases the risks of rockfalls and landslides, our current major challenges," stated Su Yu-ming, a search team leader. He highlighted the unpredictability of these factors, making it difficult to estimate the time needed for search and rescue efforts.

The fire department announced the discovery of two bodies in the mountains and is in the process of confirming their identities before revising the death toll. It reported 13 people missing, including three foreigners from Australia and Canada. In response, aid has begun to arrive at the scene, with President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior politicians donating a month's salary to the relief efforts. Japan has pledged $1 million in aid for Taiwan's rescue and recovery operations.

Among the survivors are 50 hotel employees who were stranded on a road leading to the national park. David Chen, 63, a hotel security manager, expressed his relief after being rescued. "We were terrified when the earthquake struck. I thought it was the end," he said. As the group evacuated, rocks continued to fall nearby, requiring them to navigate through the dangers with the help of rescue teams. Chen's reunion with his 85-year-old mother, who had been anxiously waiting for news, was a moment of profound relief for the family.

The earthquake struck just before a long weekend holiday, significantly impacting local businesses dependent on tourism, such as hotels, hostels, and restaurants. Aga Syu, a hostel owner in Hualien, voiced her concerns for the well-being of her guests and the potential long-term impact on the region's tourism industry.

Taiwan, located near the convergence of two tectonic plates, frequently experiences earthquakes. A significant quake in 2016 killed more than 100 people in southern Taiwan, and a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1999 resulted in over 2,000 deaths.

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