Rescuers search for people with whom contact was lost after earthquake in Taiwan

Rescuers search for people with whom contact was lost after earthquake in Taiwan

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HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — Rescuers searched Thursday for dozens of people with whom contact was lost after Taiwan recorded its largest earthquake in a quarter-century, which left nine dead, damaged several buildings and caused rockfalls.

In the city of Hualien, near the epicenter on the island’s east coast, workers used an excavator to place construction material around a damaged building to stabilize it and prevent a collapse. Mayor Hsu Chen-wei previously said 48 residential buildings were affected. Some of the buildings were left leaning at steep angles after their first floors collapsed.

More than 1,000 people were injured in the Wednesday morning earthquake. Of the nine who died, at least four lost their lives inside Taroko National Park, a tourist attraction famous for its views of canyons and cliffs in Hualien county, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the capital Taipei.

Around 150 people were still trapped or reported missing on Thursday, the National Fire Agency said.

Around twenty tourists, among other people, were stranded inside the park. The health and welfare ministry said another 64 were quarry workers. Six employees from another quarry were airlifted from the area, which was inaccessible because rockfalls damaged the roads.

Several people, including six university students, were also reported to be trapped. Meanwhile, authorities lost contact with a group of about 50 people, mostly hotel employees, who had previously been reported to be inside the national park.

For several hours after the quake, television broadcast images of neighbors and rescuers helping people out of the windows of damaged buildings, where the shaking jammed the doors. It was unclear Thursday morning whether more people were trapped inside damaged buildings.

Taiwan put the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.2, while the United States Geological Survey put it at 7.4. The Central Meteorological Administration has recorded more than 300 aftershocks from Wednesday morning to Thursday.

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