Taiwan earthquake injuries top 1,000, missing hotel workers found

April 4, 2024 - 2:52 PM
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Katie Huang, 16, carries her cat Tako, who she found hiding behind a bed while collecting belongings with her family from a damaged building, following the earthquake, in Hualien, Taiwan, April 4, 2024. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

The number of people injured in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in eastern Taiwan climbed past 1,000 on Thursday though the death toll remained steady at nine, with dozens workers on their way to a hotel in a national park mostly now found safe.

RELATED: Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years kills nine; 50 missing

The temblor, the strongest in 25 years, hit on Wednesday morning just as people were readying to go to work and school, centered on the largely rural and sparsely populated eastern county of Hualien.

Buildings also shook violently in capital Taipei, but damage and disruption there was minimal.

Taiwan’s fire department said the number of injuries had reached 1,058, but most of almost 50 hotel workers on their way to a resort in Taroko National Park, a popular tourist destination, had been located.

Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang wrote on his Facebook page that rescuers expected to be able to reach them on Thursday evening.

Work continues to open up the road into Taroko, which is known as the cross-island highway and traverses the gorge connecting Hualien with Taiwan’s west coast.

A further 646 people are still trapped, mostly in hotels in the park due to the road being cut off, the fire department said.

The railway line to Hualien re-opened ahead of schedule on Thursday, although one rural station north of Hualien city remains closed due to damage, the railway administration said.

In Hualien city, where people who had been trapped in buildings have all been rescued, some people slept outdoors overnight as more than 300 aftershocks rocked the region, unnerving residents.

Outside one severely damaged 10-story building in downtown Hualien, dozens of residents queued to get inside to retrieve belongings.

Having to wear helmets and accompanied by government personnel, they were given a 10 minute window to collect valuables in huge garbage bags, though some opted to throw belongings outside windows into the street to save time.

Tian Liang-si, who lived on the fifth floor, scrambled to collect her laptop, family photos and other items.

She recalled the moment of the earthquake, rushing to save her four puppies at the building lurchedand furniture moved.

“I’m a native Hualiener. I’m supposed not to fear earthquakes. But this is an earthquake that frightened us,” she told Reuters.

“This building is no longer liveable.”

— Reporting by Yimou Lee and Fabian Hamacher; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Tom Hogue