At least seven killed, 67 missing after quake rocks Taiwan tourist area

Hualien, Taiwan - Rescuers combed through the rubble of collapsed buildings on Wednesday, in a search for 67 people missing after a strong earthquake which killed at least seven near Taiwans popular tourist city of Hualien.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, which hit near the coastal city just before midnight (1600 GMT) on Tuesday, injured 260 people and caused four buildings to collapse, officials said.

Hualien Mayor Fu Kun-chi said the number of people missing was now close to 60, although an exact figure was not provided.

As many as 150 were initially feared missing.

Many of the missing were believed to be still trapped inside buildings, some of which tilted precariously, after the quake struck about 22 km (14 miles) northeast of Hualien on Taiwans east coast.

At the citys Marshal Hotel, rescuers trying to free two trapped Taiwanese pulled one out alive, but the other person was declared dead, the government said.

Mainland Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean nationals were among the injured.

"This is the worst earthquake in the history of Hualien, or at least over the past 40 years that Ive been alive," said

volunteer Yang Hsi Hua.

"Weve never had anything like this, weve never had a building topple over. Also, it was constantly shaking, so

everyone was really scared, we ran to empty open spaces to avoid it."

Aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks, the government said. Smaller tremors rattled nervous residents throughout the day.

Residents waited and watched anxiously as emergency workers dressed in fluorescent orange and red suits and wearing helmets searched for residents trapped in apartment blocks.

Hualien is home to about 100,000 people. Its streets were buckled by the force of the quake, with around 40,000 homes left without water and around 1,900 without power. Water supply had returned to nearly 5,000 homes by noon (0400 GMT), while power was restored to around 1,700 households.

Emergency workers surrounded a badly damaged 12-storey residential building, a major focus of the rescue effort.

Windows had collapsed and the building was wedged into the ground at a roughly 40-degree angle.

Rescuers worked their way around and through the building while residents looked on from behind cordoned-off roads. Others spoke of the panic when the earthquake struck.

Source: ANTARA News

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