The death toll from the strong earthquake that struck eastern Taiwan rose to at least 6 on Wednesday, officials said as rescue work continued. More than 250 people were injured and 76 others remain unaccounted-for.
The Hualien Emergency Operations Center said six bodies had been recovered as of 6 p.m. on Wednesday, about 18 hours after the earthquake struck off the coast. Three of the victims died at Yun Men Tsui Ti, a commercial and residential building in Hualien which partially collapsed.
Rescue work is continuing to find 76 missing people, including 55 people who were living or staying at Yun Men Tsui Ti, which was home to a backpacker’s hotel on the first three floors. Sixteen people who were staying at the hotel and 39 people who lived in the building are unaccounted-for.
An employee at the Marshal Hotel, which also partially collapsed, was rescued alive in the afternoon, nearly 15 hours after the earthquake struck. The man, identified as Liang Shu-wei, was found taking shelter under the reception desk of the hotel, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
A woman was also pulled from the rubble at Yun Men Tsui Ti and rushed to an area hospital, where doctors were able to revive her.
Authorities said 258 people were injured, including several people who remained in a critical condition on Wednesday. 17 foreigners are among those injured, including people from South Korea, Japan, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, Thailand, and India. A tourist from mainland China was also hurt.
Among those rescued was a Japanese couple that survived the devastating earthquake in their country in 2011. The couple was staying on the seventh floor of Yun Men Tsui Ti when the earthquake hit, causing their bed to slide towards the wall as the building began to tilt.
The woman, 63-year-old Shumin Okubo, said she held on to her husband who has a physical disability due to a stroke. “I knew that if I ever let go, he would have fallen,” she said, according to the Central News Agency. “I thought, whatever happens, we must face it together.”
The couple was rescued hours later and neither of them were injured, but the woman said her brother’s Filipino caregiver was still missing. Her brother and sister, both of whom live in the same area, are safe.
“Having survived another natural disaster, I hope my husband and I will be able to make a trip back to Japan to enjoy a sakura (cherry blossom) season,” she was quoted as saying by the Central News Agency..
The earthquake, which measured 6.0 according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau and 6.4 according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was centered in the water about 18 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Hualien. The intensity reached 7 in parts of Hualien, the weather bureau said.
Computer models from the USGS estimated that as many as 68 million people across the region could have felt Tuesday’s earthquake. It came just over two days after a strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the same area, causing damage but no casualties.
Located along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan is at times rattled by moderate to strong earthquakes. A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck central Taiwan in September 1999, killing at least 2,297 people and injuring nearly 9,000 others.
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