Death Toll of Taiwan Earthquake Rises to 16; S’porean Couple Still Missing

Officials reported that the death toll from the recent Taiwan earthquake increased to 16 on 10 April 2024, following the discovery of three additional bodies on a hiking trail.

The magnitude 7.4 quake, which struck unsuspecting citizens of Taiwan on 3 April 2024, also resulted in over 1,100 injuries. Fortunately, strict building codes and disaster preparedness efforts prevented an even larger catastrophe.

Rescue teams found the three victims while recovering two other bodies from under the rocks along the Shakadang Trail in Hualien county, the quake’s epicenter.

Taiwan’s National Fire Agency confirmed that three individuals, including two Singaporeans, are still missing on the Shakadang Trail.

Couple Last Seen at Bus Station

Singaporeans Sim Hwee Kok and Neo Siew Choo, a married couple, were last seen at a bus station in Hualien, getting ready to board a shuttle bus bound for Taroko National Park, known for its rugged mountainous landscape.

Footage retrieved from an in-car camera then showed the couple disembarking from a bus along the Shakadang trail in Hualien’s Taroko Gorge at 7:20AM on 3 April.

Just 40 minutes later, Taiwan was rocked by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake, marking the most severe quake to hit the island in 25 years.

After they have been reported to be missing, the siblings of Mr Sim and Ms Neo provided the rescue team with garments worn by the couple on 8 April, hoping to assist sniffer dogs in detecting their scent.

Rescue Efforts Still Ongoing

According to the Hualien fire department, alongside rescue personnel, three search dogs – Wilson, Hero, and Fancy – assisted in the operation. However, the rugged terrain posed risks of rockfalls, avalanches, and fog, complicating the search.

Due to safety concerns, the rescue mission was halted on 8 April 2024. However, operations resumed on 9 April, with a team of six officers and one search dog deployed.

While a hiking shoe was found during the search, it was confirmed not to belong to the missing couple by their family. Additional CCTV footage pinpointed the couple’s last known location in the area.

The earthquake last Wednesday was Taiwan’s most severe since a 7.6 magnitude quake struck in 1999.

That quake claimed 2,400 lives, ranking as the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Fortunately, after tighter regulations were implemented, it prevented a more severe disaster on this occasion.

Former Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen visited Hualien on 10 April, Wednesday, to express gratitude to rescuers and promise swift disaster relief for areas affected by the earthquake.

“Everyone has worked tirelessly this past week, and I sincerely thank you all for your efforts,” said Ms Tsai.

“The central government is fully dedicated and collaborating closely with local authorities to swiftly execute post-disaster recovery and revitalization strategies.”