Bodies of mainland Chinese tourists, last victims of Taiwan earthquake, recovered from rubble

Visitors from Beijing had been pinned under heavy pillars that could not be removed without risking a total collapse of the building

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 8:55pm

The last two victims of an earthquake that hit the Taiwan tourist hotspot of Hualien three weeks ago have finally been removed from the rubble of a collapsed hotel.

The couple from Beijing who were on a sightseeing trip had already been named among the 17 dead after a magnitude-6.4 quake toppled buildings in the coastal town.

But their bodies remained in a second-floor hotel in the 12-storey Yun Tsui building, which was left leaning at about a 50-degree angle by the quake, complicating rescue efforts due to fears of an imminent collapse.

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Emergency workers had combed through rubble at the foot of the mainly residential block since the quake struck the eastern city on February 6, retrieving the last two bodies on Sunday.

Three other members of the couple’s family were also killed in the quake. Of the 17 people who died, 14 perished in the Yun Tsui building.

Hualien mayor Fu Kun-chi had said the last two victims were pinned under heavy pillars that could not be removed without risking a total collapse of the building, and the rescue was called off with the consent of their relatives six days after the quake hit.

Excavators began digging through the building from the top to recover the bodies.

The Hualien county government said the bodies of the couple had been sent to a funeral parlour and their relatives had been informed.

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Three partially collapsed buildings in Hualien are being demolished, including the landmark Marshal Hotel where one employee was killed.

Hualien, on Taiwan’s rugged east coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the quake-prone island.

Taiwan’s worst earthquake in recent decades was a magnitude-7.6 tremor in September 1999 that killed about 2,400 people.

The disaster ushered in stricter building codes but many of Taiwan’s older buildings remain perilously vulnerable to even moderate quakes.