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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Aftershocks hamper quake rescue

Devastation in Fengyuan, central Taiwan.

Rescue workers in Taiwan are clawing through dozens of toppled buildings searching for some 3,000 people still buried following Tuesday's earthquake, as powerful aftershocks continue to rock the island.

Quake in Taiwan
Some of those trapped have been using their mobile phones to call for help but search teams say they are now finding more bodies than survivors.

The BBC's James Robbins: "A British rescue team has flown in"
As international rescue workers poured in to help, the death toll topped 2,000.

It is expected to rise further, as hopes are fading for the about 2,800 missing. Only eight people were pulled out alive on Wednesday, state radio said.

One recent but unconfirmed report said 500 bodies had been found in one town alone in central Taichung province.

[ image: Struggling across the destruction]
Struggling across the destruction
On Wednesday, an elite US search and rescue team flew to the ravaged island, with sniffer dogs to help find survivors trapped in collapsed buildings.

Russia, Switzerland, Singapore, Germany, Japan and Turkey, which suffered its own devastating earthquake last month, have also despatched rescue experts to Taiwan, while the UN said it was sending a disaster assessment team.

New tremors

But the rescue efforts have been hampered by a series of aftershocks.

The BBC's Adam Brookes: "An agonising wait for relatives"
A huge tremor, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, hit the island shortly after dawn on Wednesday.

It was centred in Nantou, but shook buildings 90 miles (145km) away in the capital, Taipei, forcing frightened residents to stream into the streets.

The aftershock came more than 24 hours after the quake which is thought to have been the strongest to hit the island this century.

Troops, helicopters and bulldozers have been involved in the rescue work, but some people dug through the night, using just their bare hands.

[ image: Infrastructure damage is stiill being assessed]
Infrastructure damage is stiill being assessed
Hopes were raised of finding more survivors on Wednesday, when a woman was pulled to safety, who had been buried for more than 36 hours under the rubble of a hotel which collapsed in the capital Taipei.

Tens of thousands of people spent the night camped in fields and parks. The aftershocks are also worsening the plight of the thousands of people made homeless by the earthquake, by preventing them from returning to their damaged homes.

The sheer volume of injured now needing treatment at hospitals and medical centres is also causing chaos, and the authorities have called for volunteers to help in the hope of relieving the pressure on local services.

Click here to see a map of the affected area

The quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, has caused damage to every town in the island.

Central Nantou and Taichung counties are the worst affected. The town of Pu-li, nearest the epicentre in central Taiwan, reported 98% structural damage.

International aid

Many countries and charities have responded to appeals for blankets, tents and food, including China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Eyewitness David Bailey: "Rubble in the hallway"
Britain, France, Spain, Israel, South Korea and Thailand have also offered to help, said Taiwan's foreign ministry.

A government spokesman said the stock market would stay shut for a second day on Wednesday.

Click here to send us your accounts of the earthquake.

Read your experiences of the earthquake here

The tremor is thought to have been even more powerful than last month's devastating quake in Turkey, which killed 15,000 and measured 7.4 on the Richter Scale.

Tremors were felt more than 500km (300 miles) away in Hong Kong and the south-eastern Chinese cities of Xiamen and Wenzhou.

Tuesday's quake was Taiwan's deadliest since a 7.4 magnitude tremor hit the island in 1935, killing 3,276 people.

[ image:  ]

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