Rescuers battling to free people trapped in caved-in building after earthquake in Taiwan
RESCUERS are working to free people trapped after a strong earthquake struck Taiwan's east coast, killing at least six people and leaving another 76 missing.
Several buildings have caved in and others are tilting dangerously after the 6.4-magnitude tremor.
Videos and photos show several buildings in the worst-hit Hualien county leaning at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of debris. Firefighters climbed ladders hoisted against windows to reach residents inside apartments.
The shallow quake caused at least four buildings to cave in and shift on their foundations. This was likely caused by soil liquefaction, when the ground beneath a building loses its solidity under stress such as that caused by an earthquake.
A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the basement of the Marshal Hotel said the force of the earthquake was unusual, even for a region used to such seismic events.
"At first it wasn't that big ... we get this sort of thing all the time and it's really nothing. But then it got really terrifying," Chen Ming-hui told reporters with the CNA agency. "It was really scary."
Two employees of the hotel were killed in the disaster, CNA said. Taiwan's National Fire Agency said rescuers freed another employee from the rubble.
Other buildings are slanted at alarming degrees and rescuers have used ladders, ropes and cranes to move residents to safety.
Six people were killed in the quake, while 256 others were injured and 76 unaccounted for, according to the fire service. The CNA reported that seven had been killed.
The force of the tremor buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households.
Japan's foreign ministry said nine Japanese were among the injured. Six mainland Chinese were also hurt, according to Chinese reports.
Rescuers focused on the Yunmen Tsuiti residential building that was tilted at a near 45-degree angle, erecting long steel beams to prevent it from collapsing.
More than 100 rescue workers are around the building, including military personnel and volunteers. Away from the disaster area, the atmosphere in the city was calm as rain beat down on largely deserted streets.
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen moved to reassure the public that every effort would be made to rescue survivors. In a post on her official Facebook page, Ms Tsai said she had arrived in Hualien on Wednesday to review rescue efforts.
Ms Tsai said she "ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people, while keeping their own safety in mind".
She added: "This is when the Taiwanese people show their calm, resilience and love. The government will work with everyone to guard their homeland."
Bridges and some highways along Taiwan's east coast are closed pending inspections.
With aftershocks continuing to hit after the quake, residents have been directed to shelters, including a newly built baseball stadium, where beds and hot food were provided.