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Taiwan earthquake: Six miners rescued via helicopter as injuries cross 1,000, ten dead


Taiwan earthuquake, miners rescued
Image Source : REUTERS Taiwan suffered its most powerful earthquake in 25 years on Wednesday.

Taipei: A helicopter was used to rescue six miners trapped in a mining area as rescue operations continued after Taiwan’s worst earthquake in 25 years on Wednesday, while hundreds of aftershocks rocking the eastern region near its epicentre drove scores more to seek shelter outdoors. The death count in the island nation has reached 10 while the tally of injured stood at 1,067.

Authorities said most of the approximately 50 hotel workers marooned on a highway as they headed to a resort in a national park were located, hours after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck close to Hualien county. However, 660 people were still reported trapped, most of them in hotels in the park, after the road was cut off, the fire department said. The discovery of a dead body on a hiking trail near the entrance to a gorge took the total number of deaths to ten.

The agriculture ministry urged people to keep away from the mountains because of the risk of falling rocks and the formation of “barrier lakes” as water pools behind unstable debris. However, much of the earthquake scare seems to have ebbed away as the people in the sparsely populated Hualien county were readying to go to work and school when the earthquake struck offshore.

Taiwan suffered minimum damage

Despite suffering a powerful earthquake and buildings shaking violently in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital suffered minimal damage and disruption. All those trapped in buildings in the worst-hit city of Hualien have been rescued, but many residents unnerved by more than 300 aftershocks spent the night outdoors.

Taipei was still closed on Thursday afternoon,  but much of Taiwan’s day-to-day life was returning to normal. Some local rail service to Hualien resumed, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., one of the world’s most important manufacturers of computer chips, restarted most operations, the Central News Agency reported.

Authorities also said about 60 workers who had been unable to leave a quarry because of blocked and damaged roads were freed. Central News Agency said all were able to leave the mountain safely around noon. Six workers from another quarry were airlifted out.

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

Previous earthquakes in Taiwan

Taiwan is regularly jolted by quakes and its population is among the best prepared for them, but authorities said they had expected a relatively mild earthquake and accordingly did not send out alerts. The eventual temblor was strong enough to scare even people who are used to such shaking. 

The government continually revises the level of quake resistance required of new and existing buildings — which may increase construction costs — and offers subsidies to residents willing to check their buildings’ quake resistance. The toll on the high-tech island’s 23 million residents has been relatively contained thanks to its excellent earthquake preparedness, experts say.

Wednesday’s quake was the biggest since one of magnitude 7.6 in 1999 that killed about 2,400 people and damaged or destroyed 50,000 buildings. Taiwan and its surrounding waters have registered about 2,000 earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater since 1980, and more than 100 earthquakes with a magnitude above 5.5, according to the US Geological Survey.

(with inputs from Reuters, AP)

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