BY AP, With a report from Roy Mabasa
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Rescuers were working Wednesday to reach five people trapped and more than 140 people unaccounted for, including a Filipina caretaker, in several buildings damaged by a strong earthquake near Taiwan’s eastern coast.
The shallow, magnitude 6.4 quake late Tuesday night caused at least four buildings in worst-hit Hualien county to cave in and tilt dangerously, killing four people.
Video footage and photos showed several midsized buildings leaning at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, shattered glass, bent iron beams and other debris. Firefighters could be seen climbing ladders hoisted against windows as they sought to reach residents inside apartments.
The quake injured 225 people, two dozen of them critically, in Hualien county, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
The force of the tremor buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households, the National Fire Agency said.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen moved to reassure the Taiwanese public that every effort would be made to look for survivors.
Meantime, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chair Lito Banayo said they have already sent a team led by labor attaché Cesar Chaves who is currently in Hualien to personally check the condition of Filipinos working in the area.
“Initial onsite report is that there’s a Filipina caretaker missing in one of the buildings there,” Banayo said in a television interview yesterday morning.
Banayo added they are also checking the hospitals in the area to verify if there are Filipinos affected by the tremor that hit the eastern coast of Taiwan shortly before midnight on Tuesday.
“So far wala namang namatay,” the MECO chief said. MECO is the ‘de facto’ embassy of the Philippines in Taiwan.
There are currently about 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Taiwan, many of them employed in the manufacturing sector and as household service workers.
The Taiwanese government earlier reported that at least four persons were killed and about 200 injured in the incident.
Chen Tzai-Tung, a worker with the government disaster center, said it was not safe for rescuers to enter the Yunmen building because it was still leaning farther bit by bit.
“It’s still in the process of tilting, so it would be dangerous to go in there,” Chen said. “They’re scrambling for time.”