Taiwan Earthquake: 5,000 feared dead as aftershocks rip through Taiwan

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The Independent Online
UP TO 5,000 people were feared dead yesterday after the most powerful earthquake to hit the island of Taiwan in decades crumpled buildings while the population slept.

The epicentre of Monday night's quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, was 90 miles south of the capital, Taipei. According to official figures late yesterday, 1,712 people were killed, more than 4,900 injured and death toll was rising by the hour as 3,000 remained trapped under rubble.

Rescue workers continued to clamber over the collapsed wreckage of the Sanshung Hotel in central Taipei late into the night yesterday, aided by powerful flood lights, amid fears that at least 60 people were trapped. Earlier, about 100 people had been extricated from the once 12-floor building.

Up to 1,500 aftershocks rippled through Taiwan yesterday. In Taipei calm had been restored by the evening and most residents returned home to sleep. But closer to the epicentre, in the central counties of Nantou and Taichung, as many as 100,000 people spent the night in the open air or in tents. Many had lost their homes or were fearful of going back inside the buildings still standing.

Among the dead was a 49-year-old Briton who lived alone in Nan Ton province.

Rescue efforts were expected to intensify across the affected region this morning, as experts brought help from foreign countries, including Britain, Austria, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The United Nations, which was critical in co-ordinating the rescue operation after the Turkish earthquake last month, found itself on the sidelines. Because of China's opposition, the UN has not been able to recognise Taiwan. However, China did not oppose the dispatch of a UN assessment team.

Further reports, page 3