Taiwanese rescue workers struggle to free those trapped in the tunnel – 2024-04-08 15:20:41

Dozens of people were trapped in the motorway tunnel, while several tunnels contained German citizens and hotel employees.(AFP)

Rescuers in Taiwan rushed to free dozens of people trapped in a highway tunnel after it was hit by its strongest earthquake in 25 years.

A powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the island’s east coast, striking at 7:58 a.m. local time 18 kilometers (11 miles) south of the city of Hualien and at a depth of 34.8 kilometers (21 miles), according to the United States Geological Survey ( USGS). The quake was followed by several strong aftershocks with tremors felt across the island, including CNN staff in the capital Taipei.

Since the initial quake, there have been 29 aftershocks with magnitudes greater than 4.0 near the epicenter, according to the USGS.

Of these aftershocks, one had a magnitude above 6.0 and 13 had a magnitude of 5.0 or more.

Taiwan’s National Fire Administration (NFA) said in an update on Wednesday that the death toll had risen to nine, while 934 people had been injured.

NFA does not indicate the severity of the injuries.

Also read: Taiwan Earthquake Victims Continue to Increase

Meanwhile, 75 people trapped in various tunnels in Hualien County have been rescued by emergency personnel. As of 7 a.m. Eastern time, 137 people were still trapped.

Among those trapped were 50 employees of Hotel Silk’s Place Taroko, who were traveling in four minibuses. Authorities have been unable to contact them by phone, and have listed them as temporarily trapped.

Two German nationals trapped earlier in a tunnel in Hualien County have been rescued, the NFA added.

Also read: Taiwan Earthquake, Injured Victims Increase to 711 People

All the deaths occurred in Hualien County, including three climbers who were killed by falling rocks at the busy Taroko Gorge tourist attraction, the NFA said. Falling rocks also killed a truck driver in front of a tunnel on Suhua Road on the east coast, he added.

Reports of widespread damage also emerged, with buildings collapsing in Hualien County, thousands of homes without power, and major highways closed due to landslides and rock slides, according to Taiwanese officials.

Most of those trapped were in two road tunnels in northern Hualien County, the NFA said. Two German nationals were trapped in a third tunnel in the district, he said.

The 400-meter-long Jinwen Tunnel, where 60 people were trapped, is one of more than a dozen tunnels that run through Suhua Road, a scenic but dangerous and narrow road that stretches for 118 kilometers (73 miles) along the east coast.

Meanwhile, rescuers were on their way to 12 people, including two Canadians, who were trapped on a trail in Taroko Gorge. (CNN/Z-3)

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