Taiwan quake

11th-hour hotel change ends in tragedy for family

TAIPEI • A mainland Chinese family of five who were killed in last Tuesday's earthquake in Hualien had changed their travel plans at the last minute and checked into the ill-fated Beauty Inn which was pancaked after the magnitude-6.4 tremor.

A day before the quake, they had been involved in a car accident on the highway connecting Pingtung and Taitung.

No one was hurt in the accident but it disrupted their travel schedule. The family's free-and-easy itinerary showed they had visited such tourist spots as Sanxiantai and Baxian Caves.

Taiwanese rescuers recovered the bodies of two family members yesterday after searching for more than 100 hours. The other three bodies were found on Saturday.

The family's trip to Taiwan encountered its first problem when they left Kenting in southern Taiwan to head to the scenic coastal city of Hualien on Feb 5, according to a Pingtung County police station.

According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, the van rented by the family ran into a truck at about noon on the South-Link Highway, police said.

No one was injured in the accident and the family continued on their journey to Hualien in a new van with a different driver from the car rental company.

The family from Beijing had originally intended to check into a bed-and-breakfast place in Hualien, but the family changed their plans and checked into the Beauty Inn instead because it was closer to the train station.

The five victims were grandparents Ding Wenchang, 76, and He Fenghua,75; 39-year-old son-in-law Yang Jie, Ding Shouhui, 40, and 12-year-old grandson Yang Haoran, reported local media.

The death toll from last Tuesday's quake, which struck the coastal city of Hualien at 11.50pm on Tuesday, has risen to 17 as at yesterday.

Most of the casualties were staying at the partially collapsed Yun Men Tsui Ti commercial and residential complex in downtown Hualien.

The building housed the Beauty Inn on its first three floors. The family of five mainland tourists had checked into room 201 on the second floor.

Rescuers said the search was extremely difficult because the 12-storey building had tilted at a perilous angle after the earthquake hit, with the first four floors crushed like pancakes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline '11th-hour hotel change ends in tragedy for family '. Print Edition | Subscribe