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Filipino worker could be among those missing in Hualien

2018/02/08 15:19:58

Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) A Philippines national could be among the dozens of people missing in buildings that partially collapsed in the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Hualien, eastern Taiwan, late Tuesday, authorities confirmed Thursday.

Gerry De Belen, Head Executive Assistant and Information Officer of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) confirmed that the Filipino, a female caretaker, was among the 10 people still unaccounted for as of 3 p.m. Thursday.

MECO referred to the woman as only Melody, who was identified as Melody Albano Castro by the Philippine newspaper Manila Bulletin.

MECO has already sent its labor affairs attaché to Yun Men Tsui Ti building, one of the buildings that partially collapsed in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake, where Melody was working.

It also established contact with Melody's employers and broker in the wake of the incident, he said.

"We still hope she is not in the building," the officer told CNA. MECO represents Philippines interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) also confirmed the information.

"So far, we haven't heard that the Filipino has been found or rescued," Lee said.

The spokesman said the ministry is keeping close contact with rescuers and MECO over the matter.

During an interview with a CNA reporter in Hualien Thursday, Melody's Japanese employers said she could still be in the building.

Shumin Okubo (大久保淑珉), 63, her 68-year-old husband who has a physical disability due to a stroke, and her mute younger brother, were staying in the Yun Men Tsui Ti residential and commercial building in Hualien when the earthquake struck close to midnight Tuesday.

According to Okubo, the 28-year-old Melody was with her brother in the living room when the earthquake struck. When her younger brother was rescued, he signaled to the rescuers that Melody was still in the room, she noted.

Describing Melody as an angel to her family, Okubo said she is like family to her and that hopefully she can be rescued soon.

Meanwhile, the Filipino community in Taiwan is praying for her rescue. "We pray that you're safe," Lorgene Gbermudo posted on the Filipinos in Taiwan Facebook page.

Gilda Cabing, chairwoman of Migrante International-Taiwan Chapter, said on her Facebook page that all Filipinos in Taiwan should report to MECO or related authorities if they know of others who have been affected by the earthquake.

As of Thursday morning, the quake's death toll had risen to nine, with the injury list at 267, with 58 others remaining unaccounted for.

(By CNA coverage team and Joseph Yeh)