Taiwan earthquake claims 17 lives
Editor: Zhou Xin
TAIPEI, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Two more mainland tourists were confirmed dead Sunday in Tuesday's earthquake in Taiwan's Hualien County, bringing the death toll to 17.
Rescuers found the bodies in the ruins of a 12-story building after searching for more than 100 hours.
The latest victims were from the same family of five as three were found and confirmed dead Saturday. The family of five from Beijing were staying at an hotel on the second floor of the Yun Men Tsui Ti building.
Rescuers said the search was extremely difficult because the 12-story building has tilted, with the first four floors severely compressed.
"There is very limited space for us to operate inside," said a rescuer named Huang. "We must be very careful to avoid causing a further collapse when using heavy machines."
The 17 victims include nine from the mainland, five from Taiwan, one from the Philippines and two from Canada. A total of 285 people were injured.
Among the 17 deceased, 14 died in the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which has brought demands for a public enquiry.
The building was constructed more than 20 years ago, and its first three floors contained a restaurant and an hotel. The upper floors were residential apartments.
The restaurant and hotel have the same owner, with some residents suspecting that the owner had altered the structure of the building, according to Taiwan media reports.
According to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude jolted waters near Hualien at 11:50 p.m. Tuesday. The epicenter was monitored at 24.13 degrees north latitude and 121.71 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 11 kilometers.
It was the most severe earthquake to hit Hualien in 67 years, and followed by more than 60 aftershocks within eight hours, according to Fu Kun-Chi, head of Hualien County.
Four buildings partially collapsed or tilted including the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, the Marshal Hotel, and two apartment buildings. All were built on a geological fault. Both the Yun Men Tsui Ti building and the Marshal Hotel had large open spaces on the ground floor, making the whole building top-heavy.
People on the Chinese mainland have expressed concern and sympathy. Many organizations have made donations.
Fu said the county would provide help and pensions to the relatives of the deceased.
He also expressed gratitude for the condolences and sympathy conveyed by Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, and the donations offered by mainland organizations.
Disaster-relief personnel have begun to dismantle the damaged buildings to ensure they do not cause any danger to surrounding houses and residents.