Taiwan quake: Search for missing Singaporeans suspended due to aftershocks

Sim Hwee Kok and Neo Siew Choo had boarded a Taroko Gorge tour bus on April 3 but alighted halfway through. - PHOTOS: SUNNY SANDRO WANG/FACEBOOK, AFP via The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): The search operation for the missing Singaporean couple was suspended on April 14 because of safety concerns posed by aftershocks and landslides.

Due to continuous aftershocks, many segments along the Shakadang trail were still plagued by falling earth and rocks, reported Taiwanese media.

At about 10.30am on April 13, a rock wall collapsed about 2.2km away from the trail, causing rescuers to jump into a nearby stream to avoid the falling rocks.

The crew members evacuated via the stream and no one was injured, reported United Daily News.

The operation was later suspended after considering the safety of the search-and-rescue team, said the Hualien County Fire Department. It will resume when the trail is deemed safe and new evidence is found.

The family of the missing Singaporeans had agreed to the suspension of the operation, added the department.

The missing couple, Sim Hwee Kok and Neo Siew Choo, were last seen alighting from a bus at the Shakadang Trail in Hualien’s Taroko Gorge at about 7.20am on April 3.

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan around 40 minutes later, with the epicentre about 18km south-west of Hualien City on the island’s east coast.

Family members of the couple, who also hold Australian passports, were present at the trail on the morning of April 14, reported Taiwanese news channel EBC News. Many were in tears and shouted the names of the missing couple.

The Taroko National Park partially reopened on April 12, according to its website. Visitors are urged to exercise caution and avoid entering damaged areas. - The Straits Times/ANN

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