Demolition work on collapsed buildings in quake-hit Taiwan city begins amid aftershocks

Shelters have also been set up in parks and schools as dozens of military, police officers, and firefighters dismantle and clear ruins.

Miho Tamura

Miho Tamura

The Japan News


A person watches as a quake-damaged building is demolished in Hualien, Taiwan, on Thursday morning. PHOTO: THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN

April 5, 2024

HUALIEN – Amid frequent aftershocks, I visited the city of Hualien in eastern Taiwan a day after a strong tremor rocked the city in eastern Taiwan. I saw many collapsed buildings and people gathered together in shelters.

Authorities cordoned off a collapsed building in the city center, about three kilometers from Hualien Station on the Taiwan Railway, with police officers and others standing guard. The building’s windows and exterior walls had fallen off, exposing the furniture inside.

At another collapsed building several hundreds of meters away, demolition work began at sunrise. Dozens of military and police officers as well as firefighters surrounded the building as heavy equipment dismantled it. Large trucks came and went amid the rising dust, carrying away debris.

A 70-year-old housewife who lives nearby worriedly watched.

“Earthquakes occur frequently in Hualien, but this time the tremor felt particularly big,” said the woman, who was a regular at a breakfast restaurant in the building.

Shelters have been set up in parks and schools. About 130 people were staying in a shelter at an elementary school near Hualien Station as of Thursday morning. Hualien has many tourist spots, such as the Taroko National Park, which attracts foreign tourists with its beautiful gorges. Overseas tourists who were caught by the quake while sightseeing were also at shelters.

A 23-year-old university student from Hong Kong, who had never experienced an earthquake before, was on the eighth floor of a hotel when the quake occurred.

“I can’t stay on a high floor now because I was so scared,” she said tensely.

Damage to buildings seemed especially serious in specific areas. Elsewhere in a less-affected area, an early morning market opened Thursday morning.

More than 1,000 people injured

By Masatsugu Sonoda / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

The earthquake that occurred Wednesday in the city of Hualien has claimed the lives of nine people and injured 1,038 people as of Thursday morning, according to Taiwanese authorities. In addition, 52 people remain unaccounted for.

Twenty people were rescued from a collapsed building in the city after a search that lasted over eight hours, according to The United Daily News, a major Taiwan newspaper, and other news sources.

More than 310 aftershocks have occurred mostly in Hualien as of 8 a.m. Thursday, hampering rescue work. Railway services that were partially suspended after the tremor resumed Thursday with normal time schedules.

Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te went to Hualien on Wednesday afternoon to view the collapsed buildings and the disaster response center. Lai told reporters it was necessary to restore public facilities and support recovery efforts.

The international community is sending offers of aid to Taiwan.

“We are monitoring reports of the earthquake impacting Taiwan,” said U.S National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “The United States stands ready to provide any necessary assistance.”

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