Taiwan quake fells 17-story building

Magnitude 6.4 quake topples 17-story apartment building in southern city of Tainan, trapping scores of people

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck southern Taiwan near the city of Tainan on Friday and caused at least one building to collapse, trapping scores of people.

There were no immediate reports of deaths following the quake, but the local fire brigade reported that 123 people had to be rescued from a seven-story collapsed building in the city.

Images posted on social media also showed a collapsed building and several people trying to rescue those who were trapped. Another building was shown partially collapsed.  

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.7, was centered 27 miles (43 kilometers) southeast of the city of nearly 2 million people.

The quake was very shallow, at a depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers), which would have amplified its effects, the USGS said.

At least five aftershocks of magnitude 3.8 or more shook Tainan about half an hour after the initial quake, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.

Taiwan's China Post newspaper said on its website that more than one building collapsed in the quake.

"Collapsed buildings reported in Tainan, with rescue workers arriving on scene. The city government there has set up a level one emergency response center. Onlookers are urged not to block access to emergency crews moving into the area," the newspaper said.

Tainan’s fire department said earlier that it was on its way to the site of one building that had partially collapsed. Liu Shih-chung, an official with the Tainan City Government, said the city had set up an emergency response center.

Many people in Taiwan said the quake was strong. "I hugged the wall and put my face to the wall," Pao-feng Wu, a Tainan resident, told Reuters after the quake hit.

The quake hit the island republic as was gearing up for the annual Lunar New Year, one of the biggest holidays in Taiwan and other countries with predominantly ethnic Chinese populations.  

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In September 1999, a powerful quake hit southern Taiwan, killing an estimated 2,400 people.

Wire services

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