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Death toll in Taiwan quake rises to 9, with dozens still missingv
 
Officials put the toll at nine dead, ranging in age from 37 to 66, and at least 63 others missing. Photo: EPA-EFE
 
Nine people were killed, 265 injured and 62 still missing as of 7:00 am Thursday after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit Taiwan's Hualien county.
 
The victims include three tourists from the mainland. Two of them were found in the damaged Yun Men Tusi Ti building in the early hours of Thursday morning.
 
A female tourist from Fujian province was rescued from the same building Wednesday, but was declared dead at 9:00 pm Wednesday after treatment failed.
 
It was the most severe earthquake to hit Hualien in five decades, according to Fu Kun-Chi, the head of Hualien county.
 
The magnitude-6.4 quake struck at 11.50pm on Tuesday and was centred 23km north-east of the coastal city of Hualien. The shaking was felt across Taiwan, but in Hualien the force was disastrous, collapsing walls and leaving buildings resting at alarming angles.
 
Emergency responders were focusing on a 12-story apartment block and a nearby hotel, both of which were leaning dangerously with their lower floors pancaked after the quake hit the coastal city.
 
There were grave concerns for the badly leaning Yun Men Tsui Ti residential building, which also housed a restaurant, shops and a hostel.
 
Officials temporarily suspended rescue efforts over fears the building might slip further as engineers raced to push large concrete blocks and steel bars to support the leaning side.
 
Rescue efforts continued as night fell, with emergency responders wielding crowbars and torches to search the lower floors for survivors.
 
Continual aftershocks forced rescuers searching the apartment block to run for safety every time they struck. The responders would go back inside when the tremors stopped.
 
At the Marshal Hotel, which was also leaning and badly damaged, at least two people were killed when the lower floors collapsed. But most residents got out and authorities said they believed no more people were trapped inside.
 
Hualien is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist hubs as it lies on the picturesque east coast rail line and near the popular Taroko Gorge.
 
The government said tourists from China’s mainland, Czechs, Japanese, Singaporeans and South Koreans were among the injured.
 
Some 830 people were in shelters, officials said, while 1,900 houses were without power.
 
Nearly 500 at the Hualien Gymnasium and more than 300 at the Chunghwa Primary School. Their homes had been destroyed or damaged, or they were fearful about the frequent and occasionally strong aftershocks that have regularly jolted the area since the quake.
 
At the school, people slept bundled up in heavy blankets and wearing coats and caps.
 
Taiwan sits at the intersection of the Philippine Sea tectonic plate, which is moving west at about 8cm a year, and the Eurasian plate, which extends east from mainland China. It experiences frequent seismic activity.
 
Two strong earthquakes of magnitude 5.3 and 6.1 were recorded within 45 minutes of each other on Sunday night near Hualien. The pattern of seismic activity that followed was stronger than anything that had previously been recorded in the area, Chen Kuo-chang, the acting director of the Central Weather Bureau's Seismology Center, told the Central News Agency.

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