Scores trapped in Taiwan highway tunnels after earthquake

Taiwan rescuers worked Thursday to reach scores of people trapped in highway tunnels as engineers began a massive clear-up operation a day after the island's biggest earthquake in a quarter of a century.

Nine people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Wednesday's magnitude-7.4 quake, but strict building regulations and widespread public disaster awareness appear to have staved off a major catastrophe on the island.

Dozens of residents of the worst-hit city spent a night outdoors rather than in apartments still being shaken by aftershocks, and a massive engineering operation was under way to fix damaged roads and prop up tilting buildings.

Dramatic video released Thursday by the island's Central Emergency Operation Centre showed a helicopter flying two sorties to pluck six miners trapped in a gypsum quarry in Hualien county, near the epicentre of the quake.

Rescuers knew the whereabouts of dozens more people trapped in a network of strongly built tunnels in the county, a feature of the roads that cut through the scenic mountains and cliffs leading to Hualien City from the north and west.

Hundreds of others were holding out at a luxury hotel and youth activity centre near the Taroko National Park, with roads leading to both blocked by landslides.

Families traditionally visit the tombs of their ancestors on the holiday to clean the gravesites and burn offerings.


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