Taiwan earthquake topples buildings, leaving at least 7 dead and hundreds injured – Los Angeles Times

Hundreds of Taiwanese firefighters and military personnel raced Saturday to rescue dozens of people trapped in collapsed buildings after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn.

At least seven people, including a 10-day-old girl, were reported killed in the temblor, which struck hardest in the city of Tainan, authorities said.

The powerful quake ripped a 10-foot chasm in a golf course, cut off water supplies to 400,000 people and halted high-speed rail service to the southern half of the island just ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

As of 1:30 p.m., authorities said the earthquake had left at least seven dead and 422 injured, while 11 buildings were collapsed or dangerously tilted. Local TV showed firefighters using ladders to scramble over the concrete rubble of several apartment buildings, looking for victims. At least one woman trapped in the rubble called firefighters from her cellphone and was trying to direct rescuers to her location, Apple Daily reported.

In another case, firefighters found a 7-year-boy after following the cries of his pet cat, named Meow-meow, who stayed by his side after the quake struck, the Taiwan News said.

The quake cast a pall over the island amid the approach of Lunar New Year, a peak travel period when many people return their hometowns.  

Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou flew to Tainan, pledging “all-out efforts” to rescue those who remained trapped and assist others affected by the disaster. Ma said the military had prepared 1,200 beds in four shelters in the area to accommodate the displaced.

The earthquake knocked out 69 power lines, affecting more than 121,000 households in the city, according to the Taiwan Power Co. Rail authorities said power cuts, not damage to tracks, was the reason for the suspension of train service. Water supplies to about 400,000 households were interrupted.

Among the seven killed, six were residents of a collapsed 17-story residential building in Tainan, including the 10-day-old girl and a 6-year-old girl. Another victim, a 56-year-old woman, was killed when a water tower collapsed. 

Structural engineers told local media that it appeared the building may not have met earthquake standards, noting that photos taken before the quake show a base too narrow for a structure of such height in an active seismic zone. The Interior Ministry and Tainan’s mayor announced they would launch investigations into the building’s design and construction.

The quake, which hit at 3:57 a.m. Saturday, was particularly bad because it was very shallow — about six miles underground — and the epicenter was on the island, not offshore, said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Paul Caruso. People felt the earthquake as far away as mainland China, 100 miles to the west across the Taiwan Strait. 


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