Rescue teams and army soldiers are continuing their efforts to find survivors in the rubble of quake-hit Hualien city on the eastern coast of Taiwan with the casualty figures expected to rise, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The magnitude 6.4 quake, whose epicenter was very shallow at just one kilometer, struck about 22 kilometers (14 miles) northeast of Hualien shortly before midnight, Reuters reported, citing the United States Geological Survey.
Another tremor, at magnitude 5.7, hit the city less than 24 hours later.
According to Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operation Center, nine people have died, including three tourists from mainland China, 270 injured and 22 missing as of 2:00 p.m. Thursday.
At least four buildings collapsed in the disaster, including the landmark Marshal Hotel, which hosted many local and foreign tourists. Forty roads were also damaged.
It was the first quake with a magnitude reaching 6 that had hit the island since 2000, and some experts warned that there may still be powerful ones to come in the near term.
As many locals would rather stay on the streets than go back to their homes, the city government has arranged temporary shelters for them, with several guest houses also offering free board and shower.
During an on-site inspection on Wednesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen asked rescue workers not to give up any opportunity to save victims and promised to do her utmost to bring the situation in the city back to normal as soon as possible.
Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama sent prayers to the victims of the disaster and encouragement to the rescue crews. The United States, Japan and Singapore have also offered to help with relief efforts.
The Red Cross Society of China has donated one million yuan (around US$158,200) to the Taiwanese government to help in the rescue and relief efforts.
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