HUALIEN, TAIWAN – Rescuers were working on Wednesday to try to reach people trapped in the rubble after a powerful earthquake that shook the east coast of Taiwan that toppled and damaged buildings, causing at least six deaths and 88 still missing.
Video footage and photographs showed several medium-sized buildings bent at odd angles in Hualien, the most affected county, with its lower floors reduced to concrete slabs, broken glass, bent beams and other debris.
Firefighters could be seen going up stairs leaning against the windows to try to rescue the residents of the apartments.
The earthquake of magnitude 6.4, recorded on Tuesday night, caused at least four buildings to be tilted in a dangerous position.
A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the basement of the Marshal Hotel, whose ground floor gave way, explained that the force of the quake was very violent.
“At the beginning it was not very big … This kind of thing happens to us all the time and it’s really nothing, but then it became really scary,” said the employee, Chen Ming-hui, to the Central News Agency (ACN) from Taiwan after meeting with her son and grandson. “I was very afraid.” she said.
Two hotel employees were killed by the quake, the agency added.
Rescuers freed another worker from the rubble, the fire department confirmed.
Other buildings moved on their foundations and rescue teams used ladders, ropes and cranes to pull residents to safety.
In total, six people died from the earthquake, 256 were injured and 88 are missing, according to firefighters.
The agency ACN raised the number of fatalities to seven.
The force of the quake damaged roads and cut off electricity and water supplies in thousands of homes, the fire department added.
“Nine Japanese were injured”, said the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
There were also “six citizens of mainland China on the disabled list”, according to the People’s Daily newspaper, run by the ruling Communist Party.
The president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, said that “everything possible was being done to find the survivors”.
In a posting on her official Facebook page, the leader said she “travelled to Hualien on Wednesday to supervise the rescue operation.”
Tsai said that “I ordered that rescuers not give up any opportunity to save people, taking into account their own safety.”