Quake fells Taiwan apartment building, at least five dead

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Powerful Earthquake Causes Damage in Southern Taiwan

TAINAN, Taiwan, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake toppled a 17-story apartment building in southern Taiwan on Saturday, killing at least five people, including a 10-day-old girl, and triggering frantic efforts to rescue about 35 people feared trapped inside.

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The baby and three of the other dead were from the collapsed building, a complex of towers whose floors pancaked down onto to each other when the 6.4 magnitude tremor hit at around 4 a.m. (2000 GMT), at the start of a Lunar New Year holiday.

Rescuers mounted hydraulic ladders and a crane to scour the wreckage, plucking 221 survivors to safety so far, with dozens taken to hospital, a fire brigade official said.

Elsewhere in the city of 2 million people, several buildings tilted at alarming angles but a fire department official said rescue efforts were now focused entirely on the apartment block, where a child's clothes fluttered from a first-floor laundry line and the smell of leaking gas hung in the air.

"I was watching TV and after a sudden burst of shaking, I heard a boom. I opened my metal door and saw the building opposite fall down," said a 71-year-old neighbor who gave his name as Chang.

See images from the scene:

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Powerful earthquake hits Taiwan, rescue operations
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Quake fells Taiwan apartment building, at least five dead
Rescue personnel search through debris at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island early on February 6, 2016. Rescuers were battling to free more than 100 people trapped in a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island. AFP PHOTO / TAIWAN OUT / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A woman is taken to an ambulance by rescue workers after being extracted by a crane from the rubble of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6, 2016. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations February 6, with at least eleven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
In the early morning, emergency rescuers continue to search for the missing in a collapsed building from an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Rescuers on Sunday found signs of live within the remains of the high-rise residential building that collapsed in a powerful, shallow earthquake in southern Taiwan that killed over a dozen people and injured hundreds. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
An army soldier tries to listen to signs of life in a collapsed building from an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Rescuers on Sunday found signs of live within the remains of the high-rise residential building that collapsed in a powerful, shallow earthquake in southern Taiwan that killed over a dozen people and injured hundreds. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Rescuers bring out an eight-year old girl survivor to waiting personnel after she was rescued from the rubble at the Wei-Kuan complex which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 8, 2016. Two survivors were on February 8 rescued from the rubble of an apartment complex in Taiwan felled by an earthquake, after being trapped for more than 50 hours. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A rescue worker (C) looks for survivors as he walks on the rubble of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 8, 2016. Rescuers raced on February 7 to free around 120 people buried under the rubble of an apartment complex felled by an earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 34 confirmed dead, as an investigation began into the collapse. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A rescue worker brings down a victim from the collapsed Wei Kuan complex building in Tainan, southern Taiwan, on February 7, 2016, following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6. Rescuers raced on February 7 to free more than 120 people buried under the rubble of an apartment complex felled by an earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 24 confirmed dead, as an investigation began into the collapse. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency rescue workers attend survivor Lee Tsung-tien after being rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building complex in Tainan, Taiwan, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Two survivors - one found shielded under the body of her husband - were pulled out alive from a toppled high-rise apartment building on Monday, two days after a powerful quake. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
TOPSHOT - Rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations on February 6, with at least eleven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency rescuers continue to search for missing in a collapsed building from an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Rescuers on Sunday found signs of live within the remains of the high-rise residential building that collapsed in a powerful, shallow earthquake in southern Taiwan that killed over a dozen people and injured hundreds. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 07: A man cries after his mother confirmed died near a collapsed building on February 7, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings, killing at least fourteen people and leaving over one hundred missing in Tainan. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
Rescuers work over rubble at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 07: Rescue workers search for victim at a collapsed building on February 7, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings, killing at least fourteen people, and leaving over one hundred missing in Tainan. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
In this photo taken from a drone mounted camera, rescue workers search a collapsed building from an early morning earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. A powerful, shallow earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn Saturday. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Rescue personnel help a young victim at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island early on February 6, 2016. Rescuers were battling to free more than 100 people trapped in a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island. AFP PHOTO / TAIWAN OUT / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A fireman (C) rests near a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 7, 2016, following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6. Rescuers raced on February 7 to free more than 120 people buried under the rubble of an apartment complex felled by an earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 24 confirmed dead, as an investigation began into the collapse. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
A child is rescued from a toppled building after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
A rescue team member searches for missing people in a collapsed building, after an early morning earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
TOPSHOT - Rescue workers (C) look for survivors in the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan early on February 8, 2016. Rescuers raced on February 7 to free around 120 people buried under the rubble of an apartment complex felled by an earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 34 confirmed dead, as an investigation began into the collapse. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel carry a survivor at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island early on February 6, 2016. At least 30 people have been rescued after four buildings collapsed after a shallow quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) around 2000 GMT Friday, according to the US Geological Survey, 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city on the island and an important port. / AFP / Johnson Liu (Photo credit should read JOHNSON LIU/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A woman is extracted by a crane from the rubble of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6, 2016. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations February 6, with at least eleven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A 40-year-old man (C), identified by local media as Lee Tsung-tian, is checked by medical personnel after being rescued from the rubble at the Wei-Kuan complex which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 8, 2016. Two survivors were on February 8 rescued from the rubble of an apartment complex in Taiwan felled by an earthquake, after being trapped for more than 50 hours. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers carry a man from the site of a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. Firefighters rushed to pull out survivors. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Rescue workers search a collapsed building from an early morning earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. A powerful, shallow earthquake struck southern Taiwan before dawn Saturday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Rescue workers guide a man from the rubble of a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. Firefighters rushed to pull out survivors. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Rescue workers search a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. Firefighters rushed to pull out survivors. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Standing below a beam of exposed oil cans used to fill space in some structures, rescuers continue to search for the missing in a collapsed building from an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Rescuers on Sunday found signs of live within the remains of the high-rise residential building that collapsed in a powerful, shallow earthquake in southern Taiwan that killed over a dozen people and injured hundreds. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel work at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel carry a survivor at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the island early on February 6, 2016. At least 30 people have been rescued after four buildings collapsed after a shallow quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) around 2000 GMT Friday, according to the US Geological Survey, 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city on the island and an important port. / AFP / Johnson Liu (Photo credit should read JOHNSON LIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel tend to a survivor pulled from the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue personnel are seen from a crane gondola as they work at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
A military serviceman conducting rescue work is seen amid rubble at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: Rescue personnel search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building on February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: Rescue personnel search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building on February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
Rescuers work over rubble at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on February 6, 2016 following a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake. A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of February 6, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh / AFP / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: Heavy smoke comes out from a collapsed building as rescue personnel search for survivors February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: Rescue personnel search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building on February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: A survivor is lifted from a collapsed building February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
Rescue workers carry a baby swaddled in a cloth from the rubble of a toppled building after an earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. The 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling at least one high-rise residential building and trapping people inside. Firefighters rushed to pull out survivors. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
TAINAN, TAIWAN - FEBRUARY 06: Rescue personnel search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building on February 6, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, toppling several buildings and killing at least two people in Tainan, according to local news reports. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)
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A plumber, he said he fetched some tools and a ladder and prised some window bars open to rescue a woman crying for help.

"She asked me to go back and rescue her husband, child, but I was afraid of a gas explosion so I didn't go in. At the time there were more people calling for help, but my ladder wasn't long enough so there was no way to save them."

The quake was centered 27 miles (43 km) southeast of Tainan, at a depth of 23 km (14 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. Several aftershocks shook Tainan, Taiwan's weather bureau said.

One elderly woman, wrapped in blankets, was strapped to a board and slowly slid down a ramp to the ground as the cries of those still trapped rang out. Rescuers used dogs and acoustic equipment to pick up signs of life in the rubble.

Authorities said there were 92 households and 256 people living in the collapsed apartment building, but they did not know how many were actually there when the quake struck.

The fire department said 115 people had been taken to hospital from around Tainan.

SEVERAL BUILDINGS DAMAGED

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, speaking to reporters in the capital before leaving for the Tainan, said authorities were not clear on the extent of the disaster.

"The disaster situation is not very clear yet. We will do our utmost to rescue and secure (survivors)," Ma said.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office, which in is charge of Beijing's relations with the self-ruled island, said China was willing to provide help if needed, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said. Beijing regards Taiwan as a wayward province.

The quake initially cut power to 168,000 households in Tainan, many of whose residents lived through a massive 1999 tremor that killed about 2,400 people. Later, utility Taipower said power had been restored to all but about 900 households.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker, said some of its wafers made in Tainan had been damaged and some customers might be affected, though first-quarter shipments remained on track.

TSMC will step up production to make up for any delayed shipments, spokeswoman Elizabeth Sun said. It is a big supplier to global smartphone firms, including Apple Inc.

Other major Apple suppliers in Taiwan reported no impact on operations.

Taiwan lies in the seismically active "Pacific Ring of Fire." Television quoted Tainan residents as saying the quake felt worse than the 1999 tremor, centered in central Taiwan.

Taiwan's defense ministry said 810 soldiers had been mobilized for rescue efforts.

Authorities said cracks had been found in a dam but there was no immediate danger. Some bullet train services were suspended to the south as track inspections were carried out, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Yimou Lee, J.R. Wu, Faith Hung, Carol Lee, Eric Walsh, Eric Beech, Elizabeth Dilts and Ben Blanchard; Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Robert Birsel)


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