Newborn among dead in Taiwan earthquake
Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30
Rescuers were continuing to search late last night for more than 100 people still missing after a powerful, shallow earthquake struck the southern part of the island of Taiwan before dawn, causing a high-rise residential building to collapse, and leaving at least 14 people dead.
Nearly 340 people were rescued from the rubble in Tainan, the city hit worst by the quake. 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 Saturday night 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.
Rescuer Jian Zhengshun said the rescue work was difficult because part of the high-rise building was believed to be buried underground, with the quake loosening the earth. He said rescuers had to clear rubble for passages to reach people who were trapped.
Hundreds of people were injured in the quake, but most had been released from hospitals by Saturday night.
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 collapsed 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 centre for newborns and mothers - a newborn was among those confirmed dead in the disaster.
Most people were asleep when the magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit at about 4am, 35km southeast of Yujing. It struck only 10km underground, according to the US Geological Survey. Shallow earthquakes generally cause more damage than deeper ones.
Tainan resident Lin Bao-gui, a car salesman, whose cars were smashed when the building collapsed across the street from him, said his house first started "shaking horizontally, then up and down, then a big shake right to left".
"I stayed in my bed but jumped up when I heard a big bang, which was the sound of the building falling," he said.
Authorities in Tainan said that of the 14 people killed in the quake, 11 were found at the ruins of the fallen building.
Rescuers found the bodies of a 10-day-old infant, three other children and six adults at the collapsed building, Taiwan's emergency management information centre 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. No details were available on the 14th death, reported last night.
Rescuers pulled out at least 247 survivors from the collapsed building. Throughout Tainan, 334 people were rescued. The information centre said 477 people were injured, with 380 of them discharged from hospitals by Saturday evening.
Taiwanese news website ET Today reported that a mother and daughter were among the survivors from the building, and that the girl drank her urine while waiting to be rescued.
Rescuers went apartment to apartment, drawing red circles near windows of apartments they already had searched.
"I went to the top floors of the middle part of the building, where we found five people, one of whom was in bed and already dead," said Liu Wen-bin, a rescuer from Taichung. "Some people were found in the shower, some in the bedroom."
Elsewhere in Tainan, dozens of others were rescued or safely evacuated from damaged structures or buildings declared unsafe following the quake, including a market and a seven-floor building. A bank building also careened, but no one was injured or trapped.
A total of nine buildings collapsed and five careened in Tainan. As dawn broke, Taiwanese TV showed survivors being brought gingerly from the high-rise, including an elderly woman in a neck brace and others wrapped in blankets. Meanwhile, cranes were used to search darkened parts of the structure for survivors.
Men in camouflage, apparently military personnel, marched into one area of collapse carrying large shovels. The emergency management information centre said 1,236 rescuers from outside Tainan were deployed, including 840 from the army, along with six helicopters and 23 rescue dogs. Tainan's municipal government said it mobilised nearly 600 professional and volunteer firefighters.
The quake was felt as a lengthy, rolling shake in the capital, Taipei, on the other side of the island. But Taipei was quiet, with no sense of emergency or obvious damage.
Residents in mainland China also reported that the tremor was felt there. The Beijing government offered to help as needed.
Because of the collapse of the residential high-rise, questions arose about the 1989 structure. Tainan's government said the building was not listed as a dangerous structure before the quake, and Taiwan's interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners during construction.
Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor. However, a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.