Japanese and Chinese experts in disaster evaluation arrive in Taiwan to assist in quake rescue

Rescue personnel work at the site where a 17-storey apartment building collapsed, after an earthquake in Tainan, southern Taiwan on Feb 7, 2016.
Rescue personnel work at the site where a 17-storey apartment building collapsed, after an earthquake in Tainan, southern Taiwan on Feb 7, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - A disaster evaluation team from Japan and a rescue team from China arrived in Taiwan on Sunday (Feb 7) to provide assistance in the wake of a powerful earthquake which hit southern Taiwan Saturday (Feb 6), killing at least 24 people and injuring hundreds.

Taiwan's government-owned Central News Agency (CNA) reported that a five-member Japanese team went to Tainan, the city hardest hit by the quake, where they met with Mayor Lai Ching-te and inspected the site of Weiguan Jinlong, a collapsed residential building in the city's Yong Kang District, where most of the earthquake deaths occurred.

After evaluating the situation, the Japanese team is expected to advise on Taiwan's search and rescue efforts.

More than 100 people are believed to remain still trapped in the 16-story Weiguan Jinlong building complex, one of 10 structures in Tainan which toppled when the 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck at 3:57 a.m. Saturday.

As of mid-Sunday afternoon, the death toll had risen to 24, and 121 others remained unaccounted for, according to the Tainan City Fire Department.

At least 505 people were injured in the quake, the department said.

The evaluation team, assembled by Japan's government and private sector, was dispatched to Taiwan after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that his country stood ready to provide assistance in the wake of the disaster, CNA stated.

Meanwhile, a renowned search and rescue team from China, known as Ram Union, also arrived in Taiwan Saturday to join efforts in Tainan. The couple, Liao Hsin-ming from Taipei, and his wife Liao Wei from Hanzhou, China, had carried out search and rescue operations in Nepal in 2015 after a 7.3 magnitude quake hit the Himalayan country. An additional 12 rescue workers from China are expected to arrive later Sunday.

Meanwhile, rescue workers in Taiwan have been hampered by the precarious nature of the Weiguan Jinlong rubble and were forced to suspend work at one point to reinforce parts of the structure with materials such as H-shaped steel before they could continue their search, CNA reported.