HUALIEN, Taiwan — The 17 people who died last week after a strong earthquake hit Taiwan’s east coast were honoured at a memorial service on Monday, with attendees bowing their heads while placing flowers in front of photos of the victims.
Fu Kun-chi, the magistrate of worst-hit Hualien county, spoke at the noon ceremony at a local funeral parlour. Members of the military and police force, religious group volunteers and city workers paid their respects.
Family members, who requested that media remain outside the memorial hall, sat inside while various officials expressed their condolences. The attendees then stepped into the memorial hall in turn, bowing and placing white flowers before the photos.
The deceased include nine mainland Chinese, one Philippine national and two Canadians, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
The shallow, magnitude 6.4 quake last Tuesday also injured 280 people after several midsized buildings were left tilting at dangerously sharp angles.
Fu announced the end of search efforts Sunday with the consent of family members, CNA reported. The magistrate said the last two victims were trapped under heavy columns that could not be removed without risking the collapse of the entire 12-story Yunmen Tsuiti building, which housed a hotel on its lower floors.
The last bodies that were recovered belonged to members of a five-person family from mainland China, including parents, grandparents and their 12-year-old son.
Hundreds of rescuers had been on the scene. A team from Japan deployed equipment that can detect a heartbeat within a range of 15 metres (49 feet).
An Fengshan, spokesman for the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, thanked donors in mainland China on Monday for contributions of nearly 21 million yuan ($3.3 million), CNA reported.
Taiwan has frequent earthquakes. While most of them are minor, a 1999 quake killed more than 2,300 people and was Taiwan’s worst recent natural disaster.