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Saturday 21 April 2018

'More than 100 missing' following deadly Taiwan earthquake

Rescue workers search a collapsed building from an early morning earthquake in Tainan (AP)
Rescue workers search a collapsed building from an early morning earthquake in Tainan (AP)
Rescue workers search a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan (AP)
Rescue workers carry a baby from the rubble of a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan (AP)

More than 100 people are still missing following an earthquake in southern Taiwan which killed 13 and left hundreds more injured.

Around 340 people were rescued from the rubble in Tainan, the city hit worst by the 6.4-magnitude quake.

More than 2,000 firefighters and soldiers are searching the ruins of a 17-storey residential building which collapsed in the city, where most of the dead were found.

Local authorities said more than 100 people remain missing, while Taiwan's official Central News Agency said as many as 172 people are unaccounted for.

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 in Tainan 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 collapsed Wei Guan building included a care centre for newborns and mothers, and an infant was among the dead in the disaster.

Most people were asleep when the tremor occurred at about 4am local time, 22 miles south-east of Yujing. It struck just six miles underground, according to the US Geological Survey.

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 Centre said 477 people were injured, with 380 of them discharged from hospital later.

Rescuers found the bodies of a 10-day-old infant, three other children and six adults at the collapsed building, the information centre said. One other death was reported at the site.

Authorities said two people were killed by falling objects elsewhere in Tainan.

Rescuers pulled at least 248 survivors out of the collapsed building, while t hroughout Tainan, 337 people in total were rescued.

The Taiwanese news website ET Today reported that a mother and daughter were among the survivors from the building.

Elsewhere in Tainan, dozens of other people were rescued or safely evacuated from damaged structures or buildings declared unsafe following the quake, including a market and a seven-storey building. A bank building also careened, but no-one was injured or trapped.

All told, nine buildings collapsed and five careened in Tainan.

As dawn broke, Taiwanese TV showed survivors being brought out from the high-rise, including an elderly woman in a neck brace and others wrapped in blankets. People with their arms around firefighters were helped from the building, while cranes were used to search darkened parts of the structure for survivors.

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 just before dawn.

Residents in mainland China also reported that the tremor was felt there, with Beijing offering assistance if needed.

Because of the spectacular fall of the residential high-rise, questions surfaced about whether the 1989 structure had underlying construction issues.

Tainan's government said the Wei Guan building was not listed as a dangerous structure before the quake, but 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 and cause little or no damage. However, a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

Press Association

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