Strong earthquake strikes southern Taiwan, at least 5 dead

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 has struck the southern part of Taiwan, seismologists and witnesses say, causing several residential buildings to collapse and killing at least 5 people.

The earthquake, which struck at 3:57 a.m. local time on Saturday, was centered about 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Yujing, or 36 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Kaohsiung City. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau measured the earthquake at a preliminary 6.4 and said its epicenter was located in Pingtung County. It said the most severe shaking was observed in Yunlin County, with strong shaking felt in Kaohsiung City, Pingtung County, Tainan City, Central Tainan City, Chiayi County, and Central Chiayi City.

Multiple buildings collapsed in Tainan City and search-and-rescue operations are underway with fears of serious casualties. One of the collapsed buildings was described as a 16-story building housing dozens of families, many of whom were at home when the earthquake struck. At least five people have been pulled dead from the rubble.

Overall, at least 126 people had been rescued in Tainan City by 8 a.m. from a number of residential buildings, including a 7-story building where 30 were rescued. Among those killed was a 10-month-old girl, but it is feared that the death toll will rise further as a number of people remain trapped or unaccounted-for. At least 152 people have been taken to hospitals.

Injuries have also been reported in other parts of southern Taiwan, including a number of injured from falling objects in Kaohsiung City and at least two injured from falling debris in Huwei Township of Yunlin County.

The United States Geological Survey estimated that some 27.7 million people across the island may have felt the earthquake, including an estimated 4.4 million people who may have perceived “strong” to “very strong” shaking. Light shaking was felt as far north as the capital Taipei.

Located along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan is at times rattled by moderate to strong earthquakes. A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck central Taiwan in September 1999, killing at least 2,297 people and injuring nearly 9,000 others.

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