Rescue workers were still combing through the rubble of shattered buildings after an earthquake in the city of Hualien in Taiwan killed at least 10 people. Another 58 are also missing following the magnitude 6.4 tremor, which hit the popular coastal resort on Tuesday.
Many are believed to be trapped inside a 12-storey residential building, which contains a small hotel and apartments. The high-rise is now tilting at a 45-degree angle and appears to be on the verge of collapse.
“I saw the first floor sink into the ground,” Lu Chih-son, 35, who saw 20 people rescued from the building, told the AFP News Agency. “Then it sunk and tilted further and the fourth floor became the first floor.”
Dozens of people are missing following a deadly magnitude-6.4 earthquake in Taiwan that killed at least seven people and injured more than 250. It also damaged bridges and buckled roads in the east of the island.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2018
Scores of aftershocks have hampered rescue efforts as emergency services sifted through collapsed buildings in search of survivors.
Concerns are growing that tremors of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks, according to the Taipei government.
Nervous residents have already endured more than 200 aftershocks, including a 5.7 quake on Wednesday evening.
“There were constant aftershocks so I didn’t really dare stay at home,” Yang Yantin, a Hualien resident, told the Reuters News Agency. “The area around my house is actually not that bad, the houses are all OK but, because of the aftershocks, I don’t really want to stay there.”
More than 1,300 police have been deployed to help with rescue efforts. On Wednesday, about 40,000 homes were without water, while highways and bridges were closed. The army has also been called in to help the emergency services.
Even the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rushed to the scene of the earthquake to help direct rescue operations.
“The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the ‘disaster mechanism’ and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work,” the president’s office said in a statement just hours after the earthquake.
“Armed forces & government agencies are responding,” Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, wrote on Twitter. “Relief measures are underway. Stay safe.”
For the past 36 hours, emergency services have worked around the clock amid rubble and debris. A witness said people had rushed out of a residential building after another strong tremor rattled the city on Thursday.
Horns sounded to warn people to leave buildings and chanting from groups of Buddhists could also be heard.
At first, it was initially feared as many as 150 people were missing, but that figure has been trimmed to 58.
“I’ve never actually experienced an earthquake before but I’d heard people say that there were often earthquakes here, so at first I didn’t really react,” Zhang Hongcong, a tourist, told the Reuters News Agency. “But later when all the lights started smashing – the floor was covered in glass – that is when I realized it was really serious.”