Rescue operations in Taiwan hampered by rain, building damage and aftershocks

World Today

Rescue workers in Hualien County, Taiwan are struggling to find survivors two days after a strong earthquake. They have been hampered by heavy rain and aftershocks, which threaten further damage to some of the most seriously affected buildings.

CGTN’s Tony Cheng reports.

It was known as the gateway to the clouds. But on Tuesday night, the Yunmen apartment building came crashing back to earth.

Today, only nine of its 12 floors are above ground, and the structure leans dangerously forward.

It’s the center of the search and rescue operation in Hualien, with most of those still unaccounted for believed to be inside. Huge metal struts have been put in place to stop the building from complete collapse while rescuers do their work.

But it remains extremely dangerous. The apartment building is leaning at a precarious 45 degree angle, propped up by huge steel bars. It’s making life difficult for the rescue workers – particularly with the number of aftershocks, some as large as 5.2 on the Richter scale. Every time that happens, they have to evacuate to safety.

But the rescue workers continue to head inside.

More than 300 people – a combination of civilian and military personnel – have been drafted in to try and save any survivors and recover the bodies of those trapped.

“Everything is in control,” Yeh Jiunn-Rong, a local official, said. “Our first priority is to do rescue, to rescue as many lives as possible. And the second one is to provide those people, the victims, with housing and all kinds of support.”

A hotel was cleared on Wednesday, with two survivors and one fatality pulled from the rubble. But the structure is fatally flawed,and police were keen to keep people away in the event of a collapse.

Most of the survivors are being temporarily housed in a sports stadium on the edge of town. Aid has been flowing in from all over the island, and although running water has been cut to some parts of the city, most essentials are in good supply.

However, there is one big concern: aftershocks.

“We are very worried about aftershocks,” local resident Hsieh Zhenhong explained. “On the one hand, many people have homes that are fine, but we’re unsure about when the aftershocks will finish.”

Many people will have to wait until their homes are certified as structurally sound. But the weather is not making it easy, and the storm clouds promised more rain on Thursday evening; another challenge for a city reeling from the wrath of mother nature.