Taiwan government steps up efforts in quake aftermath

TAIPEI - As rescue efforts for the magnitude-6.4 earthquake that hit Southern Taiwan on Saturday continue on, both central and local government leaders have begun preparations to rebuild disaster-stricken areas.

"I'm here to grant more rescue funding for Tainan," Premier Chang Shan-cheng said during an inspection of the 17-story Wei Guan Golden Dragon apartment building.

He was seen giving a red envelope to Tainan City Mayor William Lai.

As of 3pm Sunday, 191 people have been pulled out of the collapsed building, while 123 were still trapped, waiting for rescue. Twenty were reported dead, according to official figures.

Lai, reporting the current rescue efforts, stating that NT$2 million (S$84,000) has been issued to each casualty, NT$500,000 to those severely injured, and NT$200,000 to those sustaining minor injuries. Those who made it out uninjured also received NT$100,000 in compensation.

When asked whether the severe damage caused by the Wei Guan apartment complex's collapse, located in Tainan's Yongkang District, were man-made, Chang cited Lai's previous remarks. "If there are instances of jerrybuilding, we will definitely get to the bottom of this and obtain justice for those affected."

Construction structure experts will carry out inspections, and the Executive Yuan will provide legal assistance for the Tainan City Government in compensation matters if the construction company for Wei Guan has definitely closed down, Chang said.

Plans are also currently being drawn up to efficiently distribute the donations, he stated, citing future housing programs for the affected residents as an example. Related application requirements have been drawn up by the Construction and Planning Agency.

Kaohsiung mayor's holiday trip cut short

While the earthquake's epicenter was located in Kaohsiung's Meinong District, the harbour city sustained relatively less severe damage compared to its neighbouring city, Tainan.

However, Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu's holiday trip was cut short due to the earthquake. Arriving in Taiwan early Sunday, Chen took the helm and oversaw rescue efforts at the city government.

Kaohsiung City Government Fire Department, as of 9am Sunday, has distributed 30 vehicles and 86 people (including 31 volunteer and private rescue crews) to assist with rescue efforts in Tainan's Yongkang District.

Chen has also instructed Kaohsiung's tourism department to make last-minute changes to holiday events to pray for the victims of the earthquake. Firework shows have also been cancelled.

Historical bildings damaged

A number of historical buildings in Southern Taiwan have also been damaged due to the Saturday tremors, reports stated.

Addressing toppled objects that were found at Kaohsiung Qishan's Mazu Temple, Chen instructed Kaohsiung's Cultural Affairs Bureau to draw up monument restoration plans.

According to reports made on Saturday, Tainan reported at least 23 historical buildings had been damaged, including the bell tower next to Fengshen Temple and the collapsed Reception Archway - both are considered the most serious cases of damage that the Tainan Cultural Affairs Bureau has uncovered as of press time.

Cracks were also discovered at Tainan Mazu Temple, along with a shifted main gate and fragmented ceramic decorations littering the ground.