Taiwan: Rescue efforts continue after 800 injured in earthquake

Rescue efforts are under way in Taiwan after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island’s eastern coast, killing at least nine and injuring more than 800.

Some 127 people are trapped in collapsed tunnels and on mountainous roads along the rugged coastline.

The epicentre was 18km (11 miles) south of Hualien city, but strong tremors were felt all the way in the capital Taipei, more than 100km away.

This is the strongest quake to hit Taiwan in 25 years.

It also triggered tsunami alerts earlier in the day in nearby Japanese and Philippine islands which were later retracted. It caused the most damage in Hualien, where buildings fell, roads were blocked and train lines disrupted, leaving the remote region even more cut off from the rest of Taiwan.

“I was just getting out of bed when a clothes rack and a low cabinet fell over,” Ocean Tsai, who lives in Hualien, told BBC Chinese. “It kept getting stronger, and I started worrying about our belongings at home. Fortunately, apart from the motorcycle tipping over, the damage was minimal.”

But social media was soon filled with extraordinary footage of landslides along the coast. They tumbled down the mountains, making huge clouds billow up from the sea as they crashed into it.

It is along this coastline, with its narrow, winding roads and tunnels carved out of the rock, that dozens have become trapped. The route is popular with tourists, famed for its spectacular views from the mountains out across the Pacific Ocean. But it is also known to be treacherous, not least because of the possibility of landslides.

Rescue operations to reach 77 people trapped in the Jinwen and Qingshui tunnels along the road in Hualien were continuing into the night. Pictures show how the road outside the Qingshui tunnel has simply fallen away.

It is unclear how long those inside will be trapped – and whether or not they have food and water, or can communicate with the outside world.

<<BBC>>