Dozens of people are missing after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Taiwan shortly before midnight Tuesday, killing at least six and injuring more than 250.
The quake hit 13 miles north of Hualien, a coastal city of around 100,000 people, collapsing buildings and buckling roads.
Dozens of aftershocks were felt Wednesday, endangering the more than 1,300 firefighters and soldiers combing through the rubble.
Many of the missing are believed to be trapped inside damaged buildings.
Some 50 people remained unaccounted for Wednesday from the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, a residential and commercial complex that partially collapsed in the quake and has been left lurching precariously over a street. Emergency responders are attempting to prop up the structure, one of four buildings in Hualien which are tilting or have collapsed, using huge poles.
Thirty-nine residents from the building were unaccounted for as of 2 p.m. local time (11 p.m. Tuesday ET), along with 17 guests from a backpacker’s hostel on the lower three floors, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported. Two bodies have been recovered from the building so far.
Rescue operations on the building were suspended for several hours in the afternoon after it lurched several degrees, but the search resumed after 6 p.m.
Efforts have also been underway at the flattened Marshal Hotel, the agency reported. One hotel employee was rescued but another died.
Local residents described the panic the moment the quake, felt in the capital Taipei, more than 100 miles away, hit.
“We’ve never had anything like this, we’ve never had a building topple over,” Yang Hsi Hua, a volunteer rescue worker, told Reuters.
“Also, it was constantly shaking, so everyone was really scared, we ran to empty open spaces to avoid it.”
Taiwan, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, has been hit by more than 100 earthquakes so far this month. Tuesday’s quake comes two years after a major quake in the city of Tainan that killed at least 116 people. In 1999, a magnitude 7.6 quake in central Taiwan killed more than 2,300 people.
Cover image: Rescue and emergency workers block off a street where a building came off its foundation, the morning after a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the eastern Taiwanese city of Hualien, on February 7, 2018. (PAUL YANG/AFP/Getty Images)