Powerful earthquake causes building to partially collapse in southern Taiwan

Local TV station reports that 30 people were rescued from a seven-storey building


Rescuers are seen entering an office building that collapsed on its side from an early morning earthquake in Tainan, southern Taiwan, on Feb. 6, 2016. (Associated Press)

A powerful earthquake struck southern Taiwan on Saturday near the city of Tainan, toppling at least one apartment building and collapsing other structures, although there were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries.

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

Taiwan’s Formosa TV showed images of police, firefighters and some troops in camouflage uniforms at the site of a collapsed residential building and said its reporters could hear the cries of some residents trapped inside. The television station reported that 30 people had been rescued from a seven-storey building.

Taiwan Earthquake

A Taipei-based TV station reported that 30 people were rescued from the seven-storey building after the 6.4-magnitude earthquake. (Associated Press)

The firefighters were hosing down part of the building to prevent a fire, while others used ladders and a crane to enter the upper floors. The building appeared to have collapsed onto the first story where a child’s clothes were visible fluttering on a laundry line.

The Taiwanese news website ET Today reported that two buildings toppled in the city and that some water and gas utility pipes had ruptured. Sirens were wailing as city authorities responded to the quake, the news website said.

It 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.

Pacific Ring of Fire

Taiwan lies in the seismically active “Pacific Ring of Fire” zone and it was struck by a magnitude 7.7 quake that killed more than 2,400 people in September 1999.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the latest quake, a magnitude 6.4, was centered 43 kilometres southeast of Tainan, a city of nearly 2 million people. The quake was very shallow, at depth of 10 kilometres, which would have amplified its effects, the USGS said.

Tainan City, Taiwan

The southern city of Tainan has a population of nearly two million people. (CBC)

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 city’s fire department confirmed earlier that at least one building had partially collapsed and Liu Shih-chung, an official with the Tainan City Government, told Reuters the city had set up an emergency response center.

Official information about the extent of damages from the quake was not immediately available.

According to the USGS, the last time Taiwan was struck by a quake of the same magnitude as Saturday’s was in April 2015, but that quake was much deeper.