The number of confirmed deaths in a weekend earthquake in Taiwan edged up to 37, with the final toll estimated to be much higher as more than a hundred people were still reported missing.
Efforts to dig through collapsed buildings in the southern city of Tainan, home to chip-making suppliers to companies like Apple Inc., were hampered on Monday with authorities suspending the use of heavy machinery due to safety concerns. Local television reported that two survivors were pulled from the rubble, including a woman trapped under the body of her husband. The final death toll could cross 100, the Apple Daily cited Tainan’s mayor as saying.
The 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck an area in the island’s southwest at 3:57 a.m. local time on Saturday and came at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, a time when many people are traveling. The island’s fire agency said that more than 520 people were injured when nine buildings, including a 17-story residential tower, buckled during the temblor.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which makes chips for the iPhone and other products, said that it expects at least 85 percent of equipment at two plants to be restored to normal on Monday. Tools at a third will take another two or three days to be up and running, spokesperson Elizabeth Sun said in a phone interview. The company doesn’t need to adjust its first-quarter guidance, she added.
“The earthquake may be unlikely to dramatically effect chip-making plants in Taiwan,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Anand Srinivasan and Eshani Guptewrote in a report. “Most factories were probably closed ahead of the Lunar New Year.”
Taiwan is prone to quakes because it’s near the convergence of two tectonic plates — the Philippine Sea Plate and Eurasia Plate. There have been about 79 quakes greater than 4.5 in the area since the beginning of last year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The epicenter of Saturday’s temblor was in Kaohsiung, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Taipei, at a depth of 16.7 kilometers, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau website. There were at least 40 aftershocks.
Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen visited victims in Tainan on Monday morning, saying that rescue efforts will continue, according to a Central News Agency report.