At least 14 people -- including a newborn girl -- were confirmed dead Saturday after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan, collapsing buildings and leaving more than 150 people missing.
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), 484 people were reported injured as rescuers continued searching late into the night for at least 108 adults and 47 children who remained missing in Tainan, the hardest-hit city where nine buildings collapsed.
More than 250 residents had been rescued from a 16-story residential structure where many of the dead were found in Yongkang District, according to the local fire department.
The National Fire Agency said the fatalities also included two people in Gueiren District, where a 56-year-old woman was killed by a toppled water tower and a 40-year-old man was found in a partly collapsed structure.
CNA reported that residents in Taiwan’s south and central regions said they experienced tremors resembling those felt in a magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1999 that killed more than 2,400 people.
A woman -- surnamed Chien -- who was rescued from the Weiguan Jinlong building in Yongkang, alongside her husband and three-year-old daughter, had survived the 1999 disaster.
"I was in central Taiwan when that area was hit on Sept. 21, 1999 by the biggest quake in the country in 100 years," she told CNA.
"I moved to Tainan after I got married and now I have encountered another major earthquake."
Holding onto her daughter at an emergency shelter, she remembered how “the smell of gas was thick in the air” Saturday and she was “worried that I would be killed by an explosion if not crushed to death in the collapsed building”.
An elderly mother at the shelter whose son, a resident of the 15th story, remained unaccounted for recalled tearfully how she had postponed her visit to Tainan for the Chinese New Year holiday from Friday to Saturday.
She told the agency that upon her arrival, she was confronted with a collapsed building.
Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature so people impacted by the earthquake can notify their friends and family about their condition.
Interior Minister Chen Wei-zen told a press conference that authorities would conduct an investigation into the building, whose construction had been completed in Nov. 1994.
Announcing a probe, Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te cited residents as saying that they had noticed that the debris of its pillars contained cooking oil cans.
Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou, whose nationalist Kuomintang party was defeated in last month’s general election, declared on his way to Tainan that the government “would make an all-out effort to rescue and accommodate people”.
CNA also reported that president-elect Tsai Ing-wen of the former opposition Democratic Progressive Party, set to become the territory's first female leader, had donated NT$1 million (around $29,850) to relief efforts, with Kuomintang also pledging donations.
According to the Central Weather Bureau, the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake was located at a depth of 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) in neighboring Kaohsiung City’s Meinong District.
It reported that the most powerful tremors, which registered 6 on a seismic scale of 7, had even been felt in Yunlin County, around an hour’s drive to the north of Tainan.