Taiwan, Feb 6: Rescuers were searching today for more than 100 people still missing after a powerful, shallow earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn and caused a high-rise residential building to collapse, killing at least 13 people and injuring hundreds.
Nearly 340 people were rescued from the rubble in Tainan, the city hit worst by the earthquake. About 2,000 firefighters and soldiers scrambled with ladders, cranes and other equipment to the ruins of the 17-floor residential building, which folded like an accordion onto its side after the quake struck. Local authorities said tonight that more than 100 people remained missing and that rescuers were racing to find them.
Taiwan's official Central News Agency reported that 172 people were missing. The quake came two days before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations that mark the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The building had 256 registered residents, but far more people could have been inside when it fell because the population might have swelled ahead of the holiday, when families typically host guests.
Local media said the building included a care center for newborns and mothers, and a newborn was among the dead in the disaster.
Most people were caught asleep when the magnitude-6.4 earthquake occurred at about 4 am, 35 kilometres southeast of Yujing. It struck only 10 kilometres underground, according to the US Geological Survey.
The high-rise building "first starting shaking horizontally, then up and down, then a big shake right to left," said Tainan resident Lin Bao-gui, a secondhand car salesman whose cars were smashed when the building collapsed across the street from him.
"I stayed in my bed but jumped up when I heard the big bang that was the sound of the building falling," he said. Authorities in Tainan said 13 people were killed, including 11 who were found at the ruins of the fallen building.
The national Emergency Management Information center said 477 people were injured, with 380 of them discharged from hospitals by this evening.
Rescuers found the bodies of a 10-day-old infant, three other children and six adults at the collapsed building, the information center said.
One other death was reported at the site, but details were not immediately available. Authorities said two people were killed by falling objects elsewhere in Tainan.
Rescuers pulled out at least 248 survivors from the collapsed building, the emergency management information center said. Throughout Tainan, 337 people were rescued, the city government said.