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Taiwan earthquake: Hundreds still awaiting rescue, death toll rises to 13

By Wayne Chang and Heather Chen, CNN

Taipei, Taiwan (CNN) — Around 400 people are still stranded and awaiting rescue in Taiwan after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck this week, the island’s fire department said Saturday.

Authorities have said those listed as stranded are considered safe, but are cut off by landslides and other blockages on rural roads near the island’s hard-hit east coast.

The death toll from the quake has risen to 13, Taiwan’s National Fire Agency (NFA) said, after three bodies were found on a walking trail through the mountainous region. Two were discovered on Friday and one on Saturday, the NFA added, saying teams were still working to confirm the identities of those recovered.

The tremor, Taiwan’s most powerful in 25 years, rocked the entire island on Wednesday and was felt as far away as Hong Kong and Shanghai.

More than a thousand people are being treated for injuries, and six people are still missing, authorities said.

In Hualien County, the worst-affected region, buildings buckled and landslides were triggered. Survivors told CNN that many local shops and businesses, some operating for over a decade, were gone in one morning.

Rescue operations on Saturday continued to be hampered by bad weather, according to Taiwanese authorities, who had planned to send a technician and a low-orbit satellite to aid efforts.

Wednesday’s earthquake shook more parts of Taiwan with greater intensity than any other earthquake since 1999 – when a 7.7 magnitude tremor hit the middle of the island, killing 2,400 people and injuring 10,000 others.

This week’s relatively low death toll has been credited to the government’s push for preparedness after lessons it learned 25 years ago.

Victims of the earthquake have been mostly killed outdoors by falling rocks or landslides. Four of them were hiking in Taroko Gorge, four died on mountainous highways, and another was working at a remote quarry, according to authorities.

So far, only one person has been killed in a collapsed building – the Uranus Building in downtown Hualien. She initially escaped but went back to rescue her pet cat, CNN affiliate SET reported.

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