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Tech approach key to tracking those missing in Hualien quake

2018/02/09 16:01:06

Photo courtesy of National Police Agency, Ministry of the Interior

Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) A tech-based approach similar to that used in criminal investigations was the key to quickly identifying who was actually trapped in the rubble of the Hualien earthquake and who was registered at the partially collapsed buildings but not actually present during the disaster.

In the 60 hours since the magnitude 6 earthquake that happened late Tuesday, the National Police Agency (NPA) was able to narrow the number of missing people from 183 to seven, which the agency's director-general, Chen Ja-chin (陳家欽), attributed to an approach it has developed from experience from the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake and the 2016 Tainan earthquake.

According to an NPA press statement released Friday, Chen and officials at the agency were connected to the Hualien County Police Bureau via video conference call immediately following the earthquake.

Along with relevant agencies with household registration data and check-in information, they were able to compile the basic information of the people registered at the affected buildings.

The four buildings that are the focus of search and rescue efforts are the Yun Men Tsui Ti building (which housed the Beauty Inn), the Marshal Hotel and two apartment buildings.

The help of telecommunications companies was also enlisted to go over the large amount of data of calls and messages, to figure out who was actually trapped in the partially collapsed structures and who is only registered there but was not actually there on the night of the earthquake.

The analysis team used a platform that integrated information from household registration offices, hotels and the National Immigration Agency to make contact with the families of those thought to be staying in any of the four severely damaged buildings.

The police were also in touch with all hospitals and shelters in the area to check whether those believed to be missing were there.

The rescue teams were currently still searching for the remaining seven missing people -- a Chinese family of five and a Canadian couple.

The latest updates indicate that the bodies of the Canadian couple have been spotted.

(By Liang Pei-chi and Kuan-lin Liu)