Two Indians missing after 7.2 earthquake jolts Taiwan, search operation launched

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Taipei: Two Indians have reportedly gone missing after a strong 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan on Wednesday morning leaving at least nine people dead and over 1,000 missing as residents scrambled out of their homes in damaged buildings.

The Indians, a man and a woman, were last spotted at the Taroko Gorge, near the quake’s epicentre in Hualien where some buildings were seen scaringly leaning at low angles with their ground floors smashed. A search operation has been launched to locate the missing Indian nationals, Hindustan Times reported.

The earthquake is said to be the strongest to hit Taiwan in the quarter of the century. Rescuers spread out in Hualien, searching for people who may be trapped and using excavators to stabilise the damaged buildings. The number of people missing, trapped or stranded fluctuated rapidly as rescuers received information about more and more people in trouble and worked to trace them.

According to the local fire agency, approximately 70 workers who were stranded at two rock quarries are now safe, although the roads leading to them have been damaged by landslides. On Thursday, six workers are scheduled to be airlifted.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, neighbours and rescue workers were shown on television assisting residents, including a toddler, through windows and onto the street as doors became stuck shut during the tremors.

Even though Taiwan is known to be struck by frequent earthquakes and its population is well-prepared. Authorities did not issue alerts for what they initially anticipated to be a relatively mild earthquake but the last tremor proved to be strong enough to unsettle even those accustomed to such seismic activities.

The earthquake and the following aftershocks also triggered 24 landslides, damaging roads, bridges, and tunnels. Minor damage was reported at various locations, including the national legislature housed in a converted pre-World War II school, as well as sections of the main airport in Taoyuan, located south of Taipei.

Hualien Mayor Hsu Chen-wei reported that 48 residential buildings in the city, which shares its name with the county, suffered damage. Efforts to restore water and electricity supplies were underway, according to Hsu. By noon, the bustle of Taipein resumed as people were seen commuting to work and public transport plied as usual.

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