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Hundreds still trapped after quake

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About 690 people were either still trapped or out of contact on Thursday, including more than 600 who were stranded inside a hotel called Silks Place Taroko, the National Fire Agency said. Authorities said the employees and guests at the hotel were safe and work to repair the roads to the facility was close to completion.

Others who were reported to be trapped, including two dozen tourists and six university students, were safe too, they said.

The Health and Welfare Ministry said 64 workers were unable to leave a quarry. The quarry workers were reported to be safe but unable to leave due to blocked and damaged roads. Six workers from another quarry were airlifted out.

People evacuated from their homes sit outside the shelter after the main earthquake in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan.

People evacuated from their homes sit outside the shelter after the main earthquake in Hualien City, eastern Taiwan.Credit: AP

Several people, including six university students, were also reported to be trapped. Around 30 people, mostly employees at the hotel earlier reported to be in the national park, were out of contact with authorities.

For hours after the quake, local television showed neighbours and rescue workers lifting residents through windows and onto the street from damaged buildings where the shaking had jammed doors shut. It wasn’t clear on Thursday if any people were still trapped in buildings.

The quake and its aftershocks caused landslides and damaged roads, bridges and tunnels. The national legislature and sections of Taipei’s main airport suffered minor damage.

Firefighters move victims’ bodies outside a collapsed building during a rescue operation following  in Hualien City.

Firefighters move victims’ bodies outside a collapsed building during a rescue operation following in Hualien City.Credit: AP

The quake was the strongest to hit Taiwan in 25 years. Local authorities measured the initial quake’s strength as 7.2 magnitude, while the US Geological Survey put it at 7.4.

Huang Shiao-en was in his apartment when the quake struck. “At first the building was swinging side to side, and then it shook up and down,” Huang said.

A lady, 52, who gave her family name as Yu, said she checked herself into a tent on a sports ground being used for temporary shelter late because she was too scared to sleep in her apartment, which she described as “a mess”.

“The aftershocks were terrifying. It’s nonstop. I do not dare to sleep in the house,” she said.

The Central Weather Administration recorded more than 300 aftershocks in the 24 hours after the quake.

The economic losses caused by the quake are still unclear. The self-ruled island is the leading manufacturer of the world’s most sophisticated computer chips and other high-technology items that are sensitive to seismic events.

Building codes and regulations revised after a 1999 earthquake of magnitude 7.7 that killed more than 2400 people, injured about 100,000 and destroyed thousands of buildings, appear to have helped keep damage and casualties relatively low.

Several world leaders expressed their concern about the impact of the quake and extended offers of aid. But in a sign that political tensions with China remain high, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council rejected an offer of assistance from Beijing which considers the self-governing island part of its territory.

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Hualien was last struck by a deadly quake in 2018, which killed 17 people and brought down a historic hotel.

AP, Reuters, Bloomberg

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