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Japan, China send teams to join Taiwan's quake rescue efforts

2016/02/07 14:42:19

Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (front, right).

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

The five-member Japanese team went to Tainan, the city hardest hit by the quake, where they met with Mayor Lai Ching-te (賴清德) 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 be still trapped in the 16-story Weiguan Jinlong building complex, one of 10 structures in Tainan that 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.

Meanwhile, a renowned search and rescue team from China also arrived in Taiwan Saturday to join the efforts in Tainan and an additional 12 rescue workers from China were expected to arrive later in the day.

The two-member Chinese team called Ram Union, carried out search and rescue operations in Nepal in 2015 after a 7.3 magnitude quake there.

The two members are a couple -- Liao Hsin-ming (廖信明) from Taipei and his wife Liao Wei (廖偉) from Hanzhou in China.

Rescue personnel in Taiwan have been hampered by the precarious nature of the Weiguan Jinlong rubble and were forced to suspend work at one point, according to the Tainan City government.

They had to reinforce parts of the structure with materials such as H-shaped steel before they could continue their search, the city government said.

(By Chiang Chun-liang and Frances Huang; click here for the full coverage of the earthquke aftermath.)