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In Taiwan, rescuers search for dozens of people trapped after the earthquake

Photo: Hualien Fire Department via Associated Press Rescuers evacuate a body found in the Ho Ren quarry on Thursday in the Hualien region.

Amber Wang – Agence France-Presse and Yan Zhao – Agence France-Presse in Hualien and Taipei

2:56 p.m.

  • Asia

Rescuers stepped up efforts in Taiwan on Thursday to free dozens of people stuck in road tunnels while engineers began a vast clearing operation, the day after the largest earthquake in history the island in a quarter of a century.

Ten people were killed and 1,099 injured, according to a new toll announced by the disaster agency, in Wednesday's 7.4 magnitude earthquake, but strict building regulations and widespread awareness public awareness of disasters appears to have averted a major disaster on the island.

Many residents of the hardest-hit town of Halien, on the island's east coast, spent the night outside, fleeing apartments still shaken by numerous aftershocks while major construction works were underway to repair damaged roads and shore up dangerously tilted buildings.

A spectacular video released Thursday by the island's rescue operations center shows a helicopter extracting six miners trapped in a gypsum quarry near Hualien, not far from the epicenter at sea.

Rescuers knew the whereabouts of dozens of other people trapped in a network of tightly constructed tunnels in the county, a feature of the roads that pass through scenic mountains and cliffs leading to the city of Hualien from the north and west.

Hundreds more took shelter at a luxury hotel and youth activity center near Taroko National Park after roads leading to both establishments were blocked by landslides of land.

“I hope we can use the time we have today to find all the stranded or missing people,” Premier Chen Chien-jen said Thursday after a briefing at a rescue center in Hualien.

The island has been rocked by hundreds of strong aftershocks since the first quake, and the government has warned residents to be wary of landslides or rockfall if they venture into the countryside for Qingming someday two-day holiday that started Thursday.

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  • Nine dead, more than 1,000 injured in Taiwan's most powerful earthquake in 25 years

“It’s good to be alive”

The latest victim, a 65-year-old man, was found Thursday afternoon on a hiking trail in Hualien County.

Authorities were in contact with more than 700 people trapped in tunnels or isolated areas, but lost contact with a dozen of them, even though they were considered safe.

Around 4 p.m., a highway leading to Taroko National Park was cleared. A small group stranded for nearly 30 hours emerged and were greeted by rescuers.

“It’s good to be alive!” said David Chen, who works at the luxurious Silks Place Taroko hotel, located deeper in the mountains.

In Hualien, a glass building leaning 45 degrees after half of its first floor collapsed became an iconic image of the earthquake.

“When the earthquake happened, we immediately evacuated the customers […] and asked them to leave,” Wang Zhong-chang, 55, owner of the restaurant, told AFP. 'a nearby hotel.

Hendri Sutrisno, 30, an Indonesian professor at Donghua University, stayed with his wife and baby under a table before fleeing their apartment.

China “ready” to help

Social networks are full of videos and images from all over the island.

In one video, a man struggles to get out of a rooftop swimming pool as the water swirls violently. In another, a webcam catches three cats running amok as an apartment shakes.

Authorities have yet to give an estimate for the national repair bill, but operations at Taiwan's major chip foundries have been minimally affected.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, is “paying special attention” to the earthquake and “is ready to provide emergency assistance,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

Located on the border of several tectonic plates, Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes, but strict building regulations and good preparation for natural disasters appear to have avoided a major catastrophe on the 'island.

In September 1999, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed 2,400 people, the worst disaster in Taiwan's modern history.

Two Canadians among a group blocked by landslides

Taiwan firefighters say two Canadians were among a group of people trapped by rockslides in a gorge after the island's strongest earthquake in 25 years.

Global Affairs Canada says in a statement that any Canadian in need of assistance should contact the department immediately, adding that there are 5,518 Canadian citizens registered in Taiwan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already indicated that Canada has contacted Taiwanese officials and is prepared to provide support if necessary.

The Canadian Press

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116