Rescuers were searching late today for more than 100 people still missing after a powerful, shallow earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn, causing a high-rise residential building to collapse and killing at least 14 people.
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 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 of them 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 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 those killed in the disaster.
Most people were asleep when the magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit at about 4 a.m., 22 miles (35 kilometers) southeast of Yujing. It struck only 6 miles (10 kilometers) underground, according to the US Geological Survey.
Tainan resident Lin Bao-gui, a secondhand 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 center said. One other death was reported at the site, but details were not immediately available.