Powerful earthquake strikes Taiwan
A powerful earthquake struck Taiwan early yesterday, killing at least eight people, most of whom were in a 17-storey apartment building that collapsed. By late yesterday, people were still missing in the ruins of the complex.
As rescuers searched for survivors, questions were raised about the construction of the Weiguan Golden Dragon Building in the southern city of Tainan – when the 6.4 magnitude tremor hit, the floors pancaked down on each other.
Six of the dead, including a 10-day-old girl, were from the apartment building.
Rescuers mounted hydraulic ladders and a crane to scour the ruins, plucking more than 220 survivors to safety, and dozens were taken to hospital, a fire brigade official said.
Buildings in nine other locations in the city of 2 million people collapsed, and five were left tilting at alarming angles.
City mayor William Lai told reporters five people were still missing in the Golden Dragon apartment building.
The fire department said 115 people had been taken to hospital from around Tainan.
City officials said it was too early to determine if poor construction was a factor in the collapse of the apartment building.
– Reuters Peace talks with Taliban continue
Representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China met in Islamabad yesterday to continue work on a road map for peace talks with Taliban insurgents, who have increased their violent campaign against the government in Kabul.
The talks are part of the latest effort to find a negotiated end to nearly 15 years of war in Afghanistan, a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians and crippled the nation’s economy.
Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, said he hoped the group would finalise a road map to outline a way forward for direct dialogue between the Afghan government and Taliban groups.
“We are confident that the process will lead to a significant reduction in violence [in Afghanistan],” Aziz said. “We have to exert all our energy to keep the process on track.”
Peace efforts broke down last year after it was revealed that the Taliban movement’s founder and leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who sanctioned the talks, had been dead for two years, exposing deep fissures within the insurgency.
Last month, the group made a raft of demands to be met as a precondition to joining talks, including the removal of the group from a UN blacklist.
Austria asks for more money for refugees
Austria’s Finance Minister, Hans-Joerg Schelling, had asked the European Commission to provide €600 million (R10.7 billion) to cover the costs of taking in additional refugees, a ministry spokesperson said yesterday.
Austria budgeted for 35 000 asylum seekers annually at a cost of €11 000 per person, but instead took in about 90 000 people last year, the spokesperson quoted Schelling as saying in a letter to the head of the EU executive, Jean-Claude Juncker.
“Concerning the migration crisis, it is high time the commission returned to its normal function as an independent institution representing the general community, and start acting as such,” Schelling said in the letter.
Austria and neighbouring Germany threw open their borders last year to hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Europe, many of whom were fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere.
Despite an initial outpouring of sympathy for the migrants, public concern about the influx has fuelled a rise in support for the far right in Austria. Last week, Vienna said it would step up deportations of migrants to countries it deems safe.