Strong quake hits Taiwan; 221 people pulled out from rubble

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Rescuers in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan pulled out 221 people from two residential high-rises that collapsed when a shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck before dawn Saturday, leaving still others trapped inside. Tainan city emergency center says death toll rises to 5.

Firefighters and soldiers scrambled to the site with ladders, cranes and other equipment and extracted dazed survivors from the buildings that were lying on one side of the road.

The Tainan city government said 221 people have been rescued to far, and that 115 were hospitalized. It said two people suffered cardiac arrest.

Taiwan’s official news agency said a 10-day-old infant and a 40-year-old man were found in critical conditions when they were pulled out of a 17-storey Wei Guan residential building, where at least 200 people were believed to have been living in about 60 households.

Rescuers also pulled out others from the second Wei Guan high-rise, which had 16 floors and housed 150 families. The road where the building is located had gas leaks and water pipe ruptures, the news agency said.

Several other buildings also were collapsed or partially damaged, while dozens were rescued from a market and another seven-floor building, the Central News Agency reported.

A bank building also careened, but no injuries were reported, it said.

As dawn broke, live Taiwanese TV showed survivors being brought out gingerly from the high-rise buildings, including an elderly woman in a neck brace and others wrapped in blankets. The trappings of daily life, a partially crushed air conditioner, pieces of a metal balcony, windows lay twisted in rubble.

People with their arms around firefighters were being helped from the building, and cranes were being used to search darkened parts of the structure for survivors. Newscasters said other areas of the city were still being canvassed for possible damage.

Men in camouflage uniforms, apparently military personnel, marched into one area of the collapse carrying large shovels.

The Taiwanese news website ET Today reported that a mother and a daughter were among the 34 people pulled from one of the Wei Guan buildings and that the girl drank her urine while waiting for rescue, which came sooner than expected. It said the building could have 300 to 400 people at the time of the quake.

The temblor struck about 4 a.m. local time. It was located some 36 kilometres southeast of Yujing, and struck about 10 kilometres underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It was felt as a lengthy, rolling shake in the capital, Taipei, on the other side of the island. But Taipei was quiet, with no sense of emergency or obvious damage just before dawn.

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