Officials in Taiwan confirmed that at least 37 people have died due to the strong earthquake that hit the country on Sunday. The majority of the fatalities were from the collapsed apartment building in Tainan City.
The magnitude 6.4 earthquake caused the collapse of 11 buildings in Taiwan as the country was preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday. According to Ma Wi-kuo, the presidential spokesperson in Taiwan, 24 bodies have already been extracted from the Weiguan Jinlong apartment building in Tainan as of Feb. 8, 2016, CNN reported.
Officials are expecting that the death toll could still rise within the coming days as rescue workers are still continuing with their search and retrieval operations in the building. But, they also believe that they will be able to rescue more survivors since according to reports, about 121 people are still believed to be trapped inside the collapsed structure.
For the rescue operations, workers are using various special equipment to locate the victims. They are also working with residents who were able to escape from the building before it came down regarding the possible location of the missing individuals. Based on their own findings and accounts from survivors, the majority of the victims are still trapped at the bottom of the debris.
However, one of the major obstacles rescuers are facing is the fact that many of the victims may have been displaced from their residential units due to the manner in which the building collapsed. This is exactly what happened to Huang Guang-wei, who was extracted from the rubble on Sunday morning.
According to the Washington Post, he lived on the eighth floor of the building but he was extracted from a different part of the 17-storey structure eight hours after the earthquake caused the apartment to go down like an accordion.
Despite this, rescuers have already managed to pull out over 170 victims. In addition, survivors continue to coordinate with workers in providing valuable information regarding the whereabouts of their trapped friends and relatives.
The Weiguan Jinlong apartment was built in 1989 and as one of the city's high-rise buildings, its massive fall raised concerns regarding the structure's construction standards. Although the local government of Tainan has maintained that the apartment building has never been listed as a dangerously unstable structure prior to the quake, Chen Wei-zen, the interior minister of Taiwan, has already called for an investigation on its developers, The Guardian has learned.
The natural disaster that hit Taiwan earlier this week is not the strongest earthquake that the country has seen. In 1999, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake shook the country and caused the deaths of about 2,300 people.