Many were believed to be still trapped inside buildings, some of which were tilting precariously, after the quake hit. At an elementary school turned shelter in Taiwan'sHualien city some survivors of a tower block left teetering by Tuesday's quake were baffled and angry that such a seemingly solid structure had folded with deadly results.
"Lots of people ran out into the street after the quake, and they weren't willing to go back into their homes", he said.
People severely injured in the natural disaster would receive NT$250,000, including NT$100,000 from the foundation, NT$100,000 from the county government and NT$50,000 from the ministry, the premier said.
Rescuers were digging "nonstop on the backside of the building" to try to find people feared trapped on the lower floors, Hualien County fire commander Zhu Zhe-min said.
Instead she was bedding down at convenience stores which she felt were safer. "I have a hunch there is another big one coming", she told AFP. A Reuters witness said people rushed out of a residential building and rescue workers looked up from piles of debris after being jarred by one of them.
Each stage of the rescue effort has a different emphasis, with the first focused on rescuing, accommodating and hospitalizing victims; the second on ensuring a steady water supply and ascertaining whether underground gas pipelines and cables have ruptured to prevent further casualties; and the third on ensuring the integrity of roads and bridges in the region, Lai said.
On Thursday, officials put the toll at nine dead, ranging in age from 37 to 66, and at least 63 others missing. Hualien County's Emergency Operations Centre said at least 265 people are injured.
Taiwan sits at the intersection of the Philippine Sea tectonic plate, which is moving west at about 8cm a year, and the Eurasian plate, which extends east from mainland China.
Hualien, whose rugged Pacific coastline and picturesque Taroko Gorge National Park are a major tourist draw, is home to about 100,000 people. She passed away Wednesday evening after suffering a head injury during the quake, the news agency reported. She was pulled from the wrecked building and later died in a hospital.
Exactly two years earlier, a magnitude 6.4 quake collapsed an apartment complex in southern Taiwan, killing 115 people.
Hwalien, a popular tourist town in eastern Taiwan, was struck by a magnitude 6.4 quake just before midnight Tuesday.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited the scene of the natural disaster Wednesday.
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