Search for Taiwan quake victims ends as toll rises to 17

A rescue worker walks past a crane as the Yun Tsui building (back) leans to one side after an overnight earthquake in the Taiwanese city of Hualien on Feb. 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2018
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Search for Taiwan quake victims ends as toll rises to 17

TAIPEI: Rescuers Sunday ended their search of a Taiwan building partially toppled by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake as the last trapped pair were presumed dead, bringing the final death toll to 17.
Thousands of emergency workers had combed through rubble at the foot of the 12-story Yun Tsui apartment block since the quake struck the eastern city of Hualien late Tuesday.
It was left leaning at around a 50-degree angle by the quake, complicating rescue efforts due to fears of an imminent collapse.
Hualien mayor Fu Kun-chi said the last two victims were pinned under heavy pillars that could not be removed without risking a total collapse of the building, and the rescue was called off with the consent of their relatives.
Excavators began digging through the building from the top later Sunday to try to recover the bodies, he added
“Seventeen people were unfortunately killed in the earthquake... I believe their relatives will receive proper assistance,” Premier William Lai said while paying his respects to victims in Hualien Sunday.
The last pair are believed to be members of a family from Beijing who arrived in Taiwan on Monday, authorities said. The bodies of three other members of the family including a boy aged 12 were recovered Saturday.
They were staying in a second-floor room at a hotel in the Yun Tsui building when the quake struck.
Fourteen of the 17 people who were killed perished in the building.
Three partially collapsed buildings in Hualien are being demolished, including the local landmark Marshal Hotel where one employee was killed.
Hualien, on Taiwan’s picturesque east coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the quake-probe island.
Taiwan’s worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.
That quake ushered in stricter building codes but many of Taiwan’s older buildings remain perilously vulnerable to even moderate tremors.


Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, right, is helped off a prisoner truck upon his arrival at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Pardoned Australian filmmaker to be deported from Cambodia

  • Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature

PHNOM PEHN, Cambodia: An Australian filmmaker was awaiting deportation from Cambodia on Saturday after receiving a royal pardon for his conviction on spying charges for flying a drone over a political rally.
A spokesman for immigration police said that James Ricketson will be deported on Saturday morning, a day after being released from prison.
“We are now checking a flight for him,” Gen. Keo Vanthan told The Associated Press.
Ricketson, 69, was sentenced to six years in a trial his sympathizers described as farcical because prosecutors never specified whom he was spying for and failed to present evidence that he possessed or transmitted any secrets. He had been detained without bail since June last year in harsh conditions.
He was arrested after flying a drone to photograph a rally of the Cambodian National Rescue Party — the only credible opposition party that was later dissolved by the courts at the instigation of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
His pardon is the latest in a series of releases of political prisoners after the ruling party’s landslide victory in a July election that critics and observers said was deeply flawed.
Ricketson repeatedly insisted he had no political agenda and his work making documentary films was journalistic in nature.
His Aug. 31 conviction was met with only lukewarm public concern from Australia’s prime minister and foreign minister. Their public stance was criticized, but also led to speculation that an understanding might have been reached with Cambodian authorities for Ricketson’s early release.
Ricketson’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, said Friday that his client would go first to Phnom Penh and then travel to Australia.
“James will go back to his home country after he is released, but later he will be back to Cambodia because the pardon letter doesn’t bar him from re-entering Cambodia,” he said. However, there is no official statement guaranteeing he will be readmitted.
Ricketson had said during his trial that he wished to re-establish a project that he had launched before his arrest to buy some land to resettle several poor Cambodian families who have been living at a garbage dump. He and several character witnesses had testified that he provided financial assistance to several poverty stricken Cambodians.