IFRC

Red Cross rescue teams in Taiwan continue search for earthquake survivors

Published: 7 February 2016 13:50 CET

By Hler Gudjonsson, IFRC

The death toll continues to rise in Tainan City after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Kaohsiung province in the South of Taiwan on Saturday morning.

As extensive rescue operations continued late Sunday, 26 deaths have been confirmed, and around 520 people are known to have been injured. 121 people are believed to be still trapped in a number of collapsed buildings and rescue teams are working around the clock to find survivors.

Five rescue teams from Taiwan Red Cross Organization have been supporting government and military emergency services in searching the ruins of collapsed buildings in Yong Kang district of Tainan City. In the most difficult cases, the teams need to spend hours digging through a maze of broken concrete walls and rubble where multi-storey buildings have collapsed and been transformed into deep and impenetrable ruins.  

“Our priority is to search for people who might still be alive,” says Taiwan Red Cross Organization officer Lisa Hsu who has been supporting the Red Cross operation since the disaster struck. “We are already on day two and it’s a race against time to find and rescue any trapped survivors.”

In one dramatic case, Red Cross workers discovered a little boy who was trapped deep inside one of the buildings. The boy, of kindergarten age, was still conscious but a cement wall had fallen on his hand and the task of getting him out turned out to be very complicated.

With broken concrete blocks blocking their way, rescuers had to be lowered into the destroyed building from above and managed to reach the narrow space where the little boy was stuck. Finally, after five hours, the rescuers managed to bring him to safety. Miraculously he did not suffer serious injuries.

“The rescue teams are facing formidable challenges,” says Ms Hsu. “They are working in shifts together with firefighters to dig through the rubble and listen for sounds from trapped people. They use special devices to detect signs of life deep under the surface”.  

Red Cross emergency activities in Tainan city are part of extensive rescue and relief operations involving around 5,000 government workers, 24 rescue dogs and 5 helicopters. Their efforts are closely coordinated through a designated command centre and the various teams cooperate closely to ensure optimal efficiency.

In addition to search and rescue efforts more than 100 Red Cross staff and volunteers are supporting people affected by the earthquake and their families. Red Cross relief teams are supporting 10 hospitals where the injured are receiving medical care and are providing psychosocial support to both patients and their relatives.

Those who were injured as well as the closest relatives of those who were killed in the earthquake are receiving cash grants from the Red Cross to help them overcome the immediate financial difficulties caused by the losses they have suffered. 




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