A powerful 6.4 magnitude struck Taiwan on Saturday (6th February) just before 4am at the start of a Lunar New Year holiday.
The emergency response center told The Associated Press that 3 people were killed, including a 10-day-old infant, a 55-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old man. Taiwan’s official news agency said the infant and the man were pulled out of a 17-storey Wei Guan residential building in southern Taiwan and that both were later declared dead. The agency said 256 people were believed to have been living in 92 households.
According to Reuters, citing a fire brigade official, rescuers mounted hydraulic ladders and a crane to scour the wreckage, plucking more than 120 survivors to safety.
Elsewhere in the city of 2 million people, several buildings tilted at alarming angles but a fire department official said rescue efforts were now focused entirely on the apartment block.
The quake was centered 27 miles (43 km) southeast of Tainan, at a depth of 23 km (14 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. Several aftershocks shook Tainan, Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, speaking to reporters in the capital before leaving for the disaster scene, said 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),” Ma said.
The quake initially cut power to 168,000 households in Tainan, many of whose residents lived through a massive 1999 tremor that killed over 2,400 people and injured 11,305. Later, utility Taipower said power had been restored to all but about 900 households.
Taiwan’s Formosa TV said its reporters could hear the cries of people trapped inside the collapsed apartment tower as firefighters, police, and troops swarmed the area. The defense ministry said 810 soldiers had been mobilised for rescue efforts.
Some bullet train services were suspended to the south of Taiwan as inspections were carried out on the tracks for damage, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp said in a statement.
Taiwan lies in the seismically active “Pacific Ring of Fire”. Television quoted Tainan residents as saying the quake felt worse than the 1999 tremor, centered in central Taiwan.
More details to come.