Rescue efforts following the Magnitude 6.4 earthquake which struck the eastern Taiwanese county of Hualien last week have been called off, with a confirmed death toll of 17. A further 291 have been injured and many hundreds have been evacuated from their homes. Four high-rise buildings have collapsed and there has been “much damage to local infrastructure and buildings”, the Bishop of Taiwan, David Lai, has said. St Luke’s Church in Hualien suffered damaged – including the destruction of its glass altar table. The church, like many in Taiwan, is at the base of a high-building with apartments above it. It is not one of those to have suffered structural damage.
“All church members are reported as safe, but many with damage to their homes and businesses, and of course shock and concern about ongoing aftershocks.” Bishop David said. “Mr Yang, chair of the St Luke’s Church council, runs a guest house in Hualien directly opposite the multi-story Marshal Hotel, which collapsed in the earthquake, yet his building only sustained minor damage in comparison.
“Power and water cuts are an ongoing problem, and drinking water is in very short supply.”
The bodies of two of the victims remain where they fell in the Beauty Inn hotel. The hotel occupies part of the partially collapsed Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which is leaning by 30 degrees. The bodies are being protected as best as they can by the authorities, but they can’t yet be moved because they are underneath a girder which, if moved, could cause the rest of the building above it to fall. Demolition contractors are bringing the building down, a floor at a time, until it is safe to move the bodies. Three other buildings: the Marshal Hotel, the Platinum Twin Star and the Wu-ju-wu-shu buildings are also being demolished.
Bishop David has asked people to pray for Hualien. Church members throughout Taiwan – which is a diocese of the US-based Episcopal Church – have been asked to make special donations to St Luke’s to support relief efforts being carried out by the Chinese Christian Relief Association, which is coordinating relief ministry in the area. Immediately following the earthquake, the diocese released $200,000 Taiwanese dollars (approximately £5,000 GBP) to St Luke’s for relief efforts. The near-by Anglican province of South East Asia has sent $10,000 USD (approximately £7,200 GBP).
In a message to Bishop David, Archbishop Moon Hing of South East Asia said: “We in the Province are praying for you, your church and the people in Hualien. . . Hope you and your people are safe and well in the Lord.”
The Vicar of St Luke’s Church in Hualien, the Revd Joseph Wu, posted these pictures to Facebook showing the damage to the church and the results of the clean-up operation.