Taiwan quake death toll rises to 16

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The toll from a massive earthquake that struck Taiwan last week rose to 16 on Wednesday after three more bodies were recovered on a hiking trail, officials said.

The magnitude 7.4 quake that hit the island on April 3 also left more than 1,100 people injured, with strict building codes and widespread disaster readiness credited with averting an even bigger catastrophe.

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Authorities discovered the three victims Wednesday as they worked to retrieve two other bodies buried under the rocks along the Shakadang Trail in eastern Taiwan’s Hualien county, the quake’s epicenter.

The new fatalities brought the toll from the quake to 16, according to the National Fire Agency. Three people remain missing.

President Tsai Ing-wen visited Hualien on Wednesday to thank rescuers and pledge speedy disaster relief for quake-hit areas.

“Everyone has worked hard this past week and thank you very much for your efforts,” Tsai said.

“The central government is fully committed and working closely with local governments to implement post-disaster recovery and revitalization plans at the fastest speed.”

The number of people still cut off by massive landslides is now under 40 as authorities continue to fix roads and clear blocked tunnels.

Last Wednesday’s earthquake was the most serious in Taiwan since a magnitude 7.6 hit the island in 1999.

The death toll then was far higher -- with 2,400 people killed in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Stricter regulations appear to have staved off a more serious catastrophe this time around.

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