At least seven people have been confirmed dead, with more than 378 people injured, after an earthquake shook the south Taiwanese city of Tainan. The 6.4 magnitude quake struck just before 04:00 (20:00 GMT Friday), causing nine buildings to topple over with another five tilting on a dangerous angle.
The 17-storey Wei Guan residential building in Tainan collapsed, trapping scores of people. Rescue teams, which included more than 200 firefighters, have been trying to reach people trapped in rubble. Four people were killed inside the collapsed Wei Guan building with at least 26 residents still missing, according to the National Fire Agency.
While firefighters hosed down part of the building to prevent a fire, others used ladders and a crane to enter upper floors. Rescue dogs and acoustic equipment are also being used to pick up signs of life within the rubble. Tainan fire department information officer Lee Po Min said:
“There are 60 households in that building,” and had estimated that there may be around 240 people living there.
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Among the four people killed was a baby girl and a 40-year-old man.
In all, 230 people have been found in the damaged building, the National Fire Agency said. Fifty-eight of those rescued were hospitalized, the agency said.
There have been reports of people crying who are still trapped inside the collapsed apartment tower as firefighters, police, and troops swarmed the area. The defence ministry announced that 810 soldiers had been mobilized for rescue efforts.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, at a press conference in the capital before leaving for the disaster scene, said that authorities were not clear on the extent of the disaster.
“The disaster situation is not very clear yet. We will do our utmost to rescue and secure (survivors).”
Watch this BBC News report on the disaster:
According to the Huffington Post:
“I was watching TV and after a sudden burst of shaking, I heard a boom. I opened my metal door and saw the building opposite fall down,” said a 71-year-old neighbor who gave his name as Chang.
A plumber, said he fetched some tools and a ladder and prised some window bars open to rescue a woman crying for help.
“She asked me to go back and rescue her husband, and child, but I was afraid of a gas explosion so I didn’t go in. At the time there were more people calling for help, but my ladder wasn’t long enough so there was no way to save them.”
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said every effort was being taken to rescue survivors. A 1,200-bed shelter has been established at a nearby military school.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the 6.4-magnitude earthquake was centered 27 miles (43 km) southeast of Tainan, a city of more than 1.8 million people. The quake was very shallow, at a depth of just 10km, which would have amplified its effects above the surface, the USGS added.
Taiwan is positioned in the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, which is near the junction of two tectonic plates, and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In September 1999, a powerful quake hit southern Taiwan, killing an estimated 2,400 people.
According to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau, at least five aftershocks of 3.8-magnitude or more shook Tainan about half an hour after the initial quake.