As death toll in Hualien quake rises to nine, Pope Francis sends condolences

The bodies of three Chinese tourists were found. So far, 267 people have been injured with 58 still missing. Aftershocks slow rescuers trying to pull out those trapped inside. The strongest aftershock (5.7 magnitude) came last night. Taipei turns down Beijing’s offer of assistance.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pope Francis has reacted to the recent earthquake that hit Taiwan” by offering prayers for the victims and encouraging the rescuers.

In a telegram signed by Secretary of State Card Pietro Parolin to the Bishop of Hualien Mgr Philip Huang Chao-ming, “His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to express his solidarity with all those affected by the earthquakes in Taiwan these past days, and he offers the assurance of his prayers for those who have lost their lives and for those who have been injured. As he encourages the civil authorities and emergency personnel engaged in rescue efforts, His Holiness willingly invokes upon all the Taiwanese people the divine blessings of strength and peace.”

Some nine people have now been reported killed in the earthquake, including three Chinese tourists found in a room in the Beautiful Stay hotel. A Chinese woman died in hospital yesterday from injuries. So far, 267 have been reported injured with 58 still missing.

Aftershocks have slowed down rescue work. The strongest came at 11.21 pm local time on Wednesday, with a magnitude of 5.7.

The inn where the bodies were found was on the first floor of the 12-story Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which now hangs dangerously to one side (picture 2).

The structure survived the quake, but the ground under it gave way. Rescuers are busy trying to pull out people trapped inside.

Power supply has been restored in all affected areas, but some 31,000 families are still without fresh water.

Mainland China has offered to send a rescue team. Taiwanese authorities have expressed their deep appreciation for the gesture, but have declined the offer since they can more than adequately cope with the situation.