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Singaporean couple still missing in Hualien quake; Search suspended after rockfall

After 12 days, Singaporean couple still missing post-Hualien earthquake. Search and rescue effort forced to halt due to ongoing rockfalls on the Shakadang Trail. The family members on Sunday held a soul-calling ritual, praying for the missing couple.



HUALIEN, TAIWAN: After 12 days, the Singaporean couple remains missing in Taiwan, even as local search and rescue teams persistently work to find them amidst the island’s most severe earthquake in 25 years.

The search for the couple, Neo Siew Choo and Sim Hwee Kok has regrettably been suspended for safety reasons, as reported by local media.

The Hualien County Fire Department (HLCFD) cited ongoing rockfalls on the Shakadang Trail as the primary concern.

After consultation with the families, the decision to halt the search operation was made in the interest of the safety of the search and rescue personnel.

The couple, also holding Australian passports, were last seen disembarking from a bus on the Shakadang Trail in Hualien’s Taroko Gorge at approximately 7:20 a.m. on 3 April, as evidenced by CCTV footage from the vehicle.

Tragically, just 40 minutes later, a devastating 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan, with its epicentre located approximately 18 km southwest of Hualien City on the island’s east coast.

Earlier, the HLCFD had pinpointed the couple’s potential location within 1.5 km of the Shakadang Trail, focusing their rescue endeavours there.

However, the search area was subsequently expanded following an unsuccessful search at a rest stop known as Wu Jian Wu (Five Houses in Mandarin, 五間屋).

On 12 April, HLCFD posted on Facebook that the search team encountered falling rocks around the 2.2km mark of the trail on 12 April. The largest boulder was the size of a car.

Fortunately, all search personnel and dogs managed to escape safely.

The Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道) in Taroko National Park has been designated as a key search area.

On Saturday (13 April), rocks fell again on search personnel at the Shakadang Trail, forcing them to jump into a river to avoid being hit.

HLCFD noted that several instances of falling rocks had occurred at the Shakadang Trail over the past few days due to aftershocks.

As the area is currently unsuitable for search teams to enter, search operations will be suspended for the safety of the crew members.

The decision was made with the agreement of the family members of the missing couple, the department added.

Search operations will be resumed when the area is no longer dangerous and new evidence of the couple’s whereabouts is available.

Separately, on the same day, the HLCFD recovered the body of a Taiwanese truck driver found in a quarry in the Ho Jen mining area of Sioulin Township (秀林) in Hualien.

Sorrowful soul-calling ceremony

The family of the missing couple held a soul-calling ceremony on the bridge of the Shakadang Trail on Sunday (14 April).

County Magistrate Hsu Chen-Wei, alongside the director of the local fire department, joined in the solemn ceremony, offering their heartfelt empathy to the grieving family.

In a poignant Facebook post, Hsu reiterated the commitment of local authorities to “bringing everyone home,” urging the community to unite in prayer for those affected by the tragedy.

She expressed deep gratitude for the unwavering efforts of search and rescue personnel and acknowledged the profound loss inflicted by the earthquake.

The quake has claimed the lives of 17 individuals, with the majority succumbing in Taroko National Park.

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Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I think after so many days, we kind of expect the worse.
Peace be upon the family and hope for a miracle.