Rescuers are stepping up efforts Thursday in Taiwan to free dozens of people stuck in road tunnels after a powerful earthquake the day before which destroyed roads and caused numerous landslides on the island.

Nine people were killed and 1,064 injured, according to a new report from the authorities, in the 7.4 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday, the most powerful to hit the island in 25 years.

Many residents of the worst-hit city of Hualien on the island's east coast spent the night outside, fleeing apartments still shaken by numerous aftershocks while major work was underway to repair roads. damaged and consolidate dangerously tilted buildings.

A spectacular video released by the island's rescue operations center shows a helicopter extracting six miners trapped in a gypsum quarry near Hualien, not far from the epicenter located at sea.

Rescuers located dozens of other people trapped in a network of tunnels built in this area of ​​mountains and cliffs flowing into the sea, usually popular with tourists.

Hundreds more took shelter at a luxury hotel and youth activity center near Taroko National Park after roads leading to both establishments were blocked by landslides.

“I hope we can use the time we have today to find all the stranded or missing people and help them recover,” Prime Minister Chen Chien-jen said Thursday after a briefing at a health center. relief in Hualien.

The authorities are in contact with some 600 people stranded in total, in tunnels, isolated areas or hotels, but cannot communicate with 42 other people, whom they nevertheless consider safe.

– 300 aftershocks since the earthquake –
The island has been rocked by more than 300 aftershocks since Wednesday's first quake, and the government has warned people of landslides and rockfalls.

“Do not go to the mountains unless necessary,” warned President Tsai Ing-wen in a message, as Qingming begins on Thursday, two holidays during which families usually visit the graves of their ancestors .

In Hualien, a glass building leaning 45 degrees after half of its first floor collapsed became an iconic image of the earthquake.

“When the earthquake happened, we immediately evacuated the guests (…) and asked them to leave,” Wang Zhong-chang, 55, owner of a nearby hotel, told AFP.

“I stayed in this area, I didn't leave. There's not much to fear. I've experienced it before (…) but this time it was worse”.

More than a hundred people in the town slept in tents set up near a primary school on Wednesday evening, as aftershocks continued.

“We are afraid that it will be very difficult for us to evacuate again, especially with the baby, when the big aftershocks occur,” said Hendri Sutrisno, 30, an Indonesian professor at Donghua University.

Along with his wife and baby, they hid under a table when the earthquake struck, before fleeing their apartment. “We have everything we need, blankets, toilets and a place to rest,” he assures.

Social media was flooded with spectacular videos and images of the earthquake from all over the island. In one clip, a man is seen struggling to get out of a rooftop swimming pool amid strong waves caused by the shaking.

Situated on the boundary of several tectonic plates, Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes, but strict building regulations and good preparation for natural disasters appear to have avoided a major disaster on the island.

In September 1999, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake killed 2,400 people, the worst disaster in Taiwan's modern history.

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