Buildings tilt on sides as earthquake hits Taiwan

Rescue workers scrambled to search for survivors in buildings left tilting precariously on their foundations in Taiwan, after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed at least four people and injured more than 200.

Scores more people were trapped and others missing after the tremor shook the city of Hualien on the east coast, while a series of aftershocks were felt throughout the night.

At least six tall buildings were left tilting on their sides. The worst-hit and was propped up with cranes as it lent at about 45 degrees.

The quake left the 12-storey building leaning to one side, its lower floors pancaked.

The national fire agency said 143 residents from the building remained missing.

But it was not immediately clear if those unaccounted for were trapped inside the building.

One local who lives nearby told how he watched the tower block partially collapse.

“I saw the first floor sink into the ground,” said 35-year-old Lu Chih-son, who saw 20 people rescued from the building. “Then it sunk and tilted further and the fourth floor became the first floor.

“My family were unhurt, but a neighbour was injured in their head and is bleeding. We dare not go back home now. There are many aftershocks and we are worried the house is damaged.”

Resident Chen Chih-wei, 80, said he was sleeping in his apartment on the top floor of the building when the quake struck.

“My bed turned completely vertical, I was sleeping and suddenly I was standing,” he said.

He said he managed to crawl his way to a balcony to wait for rescue, adding that the quake was the strongest he had felt in more than five decades of living in Hualien.

President Tsai Ing-wen visited the site on Wednesday morning, where officials were going room by room looking for anyone trapped inside.

“Now is the prime time for our rescue efforts, our first priority is to save people,” she said in a Facebook post.

Four mobile cranes had been brought in on the back of trucks to help prop up the structure.

Liu Yan-hu, from the Hualien County Architects Association, said it looked like the building’s main structure was intact.

Five more buildings including a hospital and a hotel were also damaged in the city, where roads were ripped apart and strewn with rubble.

The national fire agency said four people had been killed across the city, with 225 others injured. More than 117 people had been rescued from damaged buildings on Wednesday morning.

Hualien is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist hubs as it lies on the picturesque east coast rail line and near to the popular Taroko Gorge.

Frequent aftershocks left some residents stranded in the open as they feared going back into buildings.

Authorities said 830 people were in shelters on Wednesday morning and some 1,900 houses were without power.

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