Rescuers hunt for Taiwan quake missing

Media captionDrone footage showed one building felled by the earthquake

Rescuers are searching the rubble of a high-rise residential building in southern Taiwan after an earthquake that killed at least 11 people.

Some 30 people are still missing from the 17-storey block, which was one of several that collapsed in Tainan city when the magnitude 6.4 quake struck just before 04:00 (20:00 GMT Friday).

Among the dead was a newborn baby.

President Ma Ying-jeou has promised an “all-out effort” to rescue people. Hundreds of soldiers are taking part.

Shelters would be set up for those who have lost their homes in the city of two million people, he said when he arrived in Tainan.

Leaning ruins

The 17 storeys of the Wei Kuan apartment complex, home to at least 256 people, crumpled down on each other as the quake took hold.

Television pictures showed rescuers frantically trying to reach people trapped in the rubble, using ladders to climb over piles of debris.

Media captionKate Lao Shaffner: “The entire building was just shaking very violently”

More than 200 people were rescued, but a baby, young girl and two adult men did not survive, officials said. Elsewhere in the city, at least two other victims were killed by falling debris.

At least 30 people are still believed to be trapped inside the collapsed high-rise, although officials warn that more people than usual could have been in the building as families gathered to celebrate Chinese New Year.

More than 800 soldiers have joined in the rescue effort, with the help of hi-tech equipment, 23 rescue dogs and 16 helicopters.

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Interior Minister Chen Wei-jen said investigators would examine whether the building’s construction met requirements.

Residents told how they were able to escape from their homes in the block, using their own tools and ladders.

“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” one woman told local TV.

Another man tied clothes together to make a rope and lowered himself from the ninth floor to the sixth floor below, Apple Daily reports.

Media captionRescue workers have been trying to free people from collapsed buildings

One Tainan resident said his bed turned over as the wall collapsed. “My home completely turned into debris. I didn’t know what was happening. I was really frightened as I have never seen such an earthquake,” he said.

A 35-year-old woman described how she and her two children were pulled from the rubble.

“Rescue workers broke through (the building) layer by layer. And they asked us to climb out but I said my children are too small to climb. So they dug a bigger hole. Then one rescue worker tried his best to climb in and take the children out. Then I slowly climbed out myself,” she said.

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The quake was shallow, meaning its effects would have been amplified, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

There have also been at least five aftershocks. The quake was felt in the capital Taipei, 300 km away.

Although the damage does not appear to be widespread, a number of tall buildings have been left leaning precariously.

There are also reports of power outages, and transport links have been disrupted on what is one of the busiest travelling days of the year ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and often sees tremors.

Beijing has offered assistance although at the moment at least, given the relatively limited scale of the disaster, it does not look as if much outside help is needed, the BBC’s John Sudworth reports from the Chinese capital.

Back in 1999, when a 7.6 magnitude quake killed more than 2,300 people in central Taiwan, a similar offer of help from the mainland became embroiled in political wrangling, with Taiwan accusing China of exploiting the situation for its own political ends, our correspondent adds.

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