The death toll of the massive Taiwan earthquake continues to climb as rescuers search for survivors. Early reports had the number of fatalities at three, but The Vice reports those numbers increased to 14 when they found more people, who were killed by the earthquake, in the collapsed 17-storey apartment building, Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building in the southern city of Tainan.
When the Taiwan earthquake hit at approximately 4 a.m., the floors in the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building fell down on top of each other like a pancake. Normally, the building has 256 tenants, but because of the Lunar New Year holiday festivities in two days time, authorities fear that the number is much higher than that.
The timing of the Taiwan earthquake came as the people were preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The city of Tainan had more people than usual, as visitors came to have a fun time with family and friends. However, tragedy struck when the earthquake hit the area, leaving many families devastated and homeless.
One resident of Tainan, Huang Yu-liang, has a brother, sister-in-law and their two children living in one of the collapsed buildings. Because he lived near their home, he rushed there to find out if his family was safe but he could not find them. He anxiously awaits news that his family members survived the earthquake so he can hold them in his arms again.
“I was woken up by the quake and called my brother’s mobile — no-one answered and I feared something was wrong, I rushed here and saw the collapsed building and I was in shock. Their building is at the bottom (of the wreckage). I am praying for miracles.”
Wang Chien-ming also has family living in Tainan and when he heard the news of the earthquake’s devastation, he traveled from his home in Yunlin County to find out if his family members were safe. When he arrived at the location where his sister and her family lived, he was stunned at the sight that greeted him.
“My sister, her husband and their child live on the third floor and I haven’t heard any news since I arrived here. I will keep waiting for as long as it takes. I won’t give up hope.”
Rescue workers searching for victims in the fallen Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building have found at least 247 survivors, but that is just one location. Throughout the city of Tainan, they continue to search for other survivors; so far, they have rescued over 344 people. Hotels and restaurants offer free food and lodging to those affected and over 100 people have sought refuge in the eight shelters set up around the city. At least 318 people are hospitalized, at least 250,000 are still without water, and over 2,000 homes are without electricity.
Among the fatalities was a 10-day-old girl, cradled in the arms of her dead father, as he tried to save her life.
As the Tainan emergency crews clear out an area of apartments in their search of survivors, they mark it with a red circle near the windows to indicate that section has been checked.
Rescue workers, along with approximately 800 soldiers, are involved in finding and rescuing the survivors and determining the death count. Reports say that they are finding people who were still in bed, or were taking a shower, when the Taiwan Earthquake hit.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou assured everyone that they were doing everything possible to rescue the survivors. They also have a shelter of 1,200 beds set up close to a military school.
The Taiwan earthquake left four blocks at the Wei-kuan complex in a mess of twisted metal girders and broken concrete. The buildings were left lying on their sides, as they appear ready to collapse should another large tremor go through the area.
According to CNBC News, officials said there are buildings in nine locations of Tainan that have collapsed, but there are at least five buildings still standing. However, the structures are leaning at such an angle, that it may not take much to send buildings crashing to the ground.
One 70-year-old man said that he was watching television when the earthquake hit and when he looked out his door, the building opposite him fell down. Another man, who is a plumber by trade, heard a woman crying for help, so he grabbed his tools and a ladder to rescue her. He pried the bars on her window open and got her out. However, she wasn’t alone in her home.
“She asked me to go back and rescue her husband, child, but I was afraid of a gas explosion so I didn’t go in. At the time there were more people calling for help, but my ladder wasn’t long enough so there was no way to save them.”
If you have family or friends in the area whom might be affected by the Taiwan earthquake, Facebook has a page set up where families can check to see if their loved ones are safe. The “safety check” is a way to connect and allow worried families to know if their family and friends are alive and safe.
So far, 14 people have been found dead, hundreds of people are still missing and hundreds of people have been admitted to hospitals. However, most people have been treated and released for minor injuries. Even though earthquakes occur in this region of Taiwan, they remain an uncontrollable tragedy in our world.
Reports on the magnitude of the Taiwan earthquake peaked at 6.4, with the hardest hit location being the city of Tainan that has a population of about 2 million people. This city is on a seismically active “Ring of Fire,” and this isn’t the first time they have experienced such a crisis. In 1999, a 7.3 earthquake rocked the city and the fatalities numbered around 2,400.
People in China felt the Taiwan earthquake tremor, but no damage was reported.
Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been touched, hurt, or lost a loved one in the Taiwan earthquake.
[Photo by Wally Santana/Getty Images]