At least 7 people have been killed and many others have been injured after a powerful earthquake hit southern Taiwan early on Saturday morning.
Rescue work has been on in full swing since dawn. Army was also called in to rescue those trapped under the debris in Tainan, which was one of the worst affected places. Rescuers struggled against time to pull out survivors from under the rubble. So far more than 250 people have been rescued in Tainan.
The 6.4-magnitude quake toppled several residential buildings in the city of Tainan. A 17-storey apartment complex containing 96 homes came crumbling down when the earthquake struck. Hundreds of people had gathered there to spend Lunar New Year festivities with their families. Reports also said that the building also housed a care center for newborns and mothers.
Around 30 people are still trapped inside, said the National Fire Agency officials while rescuing those trapped.
Survivors told horrifying stories of escape after they were rescued. Most of them were sleeping when the quake struck.
“I stayed in my bed but jumped up when I heard the big ‘bang’ that was the sound of the building falling,” said a Tainan resident Lin Bao-gui while describing the scene at 4 am local time when the quake hit.
“The first and second floor just collapsed and I smelled gas. Water was also leaking,” said another resident of the 17-storey Wei-Guan building to a local channel SET TV.
“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” said another resident.
Officials said there were 256 residents registered as living in the building but many more people would have been present there ahead of the new year festivities.
“Exactly how many people were there when the quake hit is not immediately clear… We are concerned that most members of those families may have returned for the coming new year holiday,” said Interior minister Chen Wei-jen.
Dozens others were rescued from a market and a seven-floor building that was badly damaged, according to the China Central News Agency.
The US Geological Survey said that the epicenter of the quake was located about 22 miles southeast of Yujing, and struck about 6 miles underground. Tremors were also felt in in mainland China.
Even though earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, most are minor and cause little or no damage. However, in 1999, a 7.6 earthquake struck central Taiwan in which killed more than 2,300 people.
(With inputs from agencies)