6 dead, 76 missing after strong quake hits Taiwan


HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — Rescuers worked Wednesday to free people trapped after a strong earthquake near Taiwan’s east coast caused several buildings to cave in and tilt dangerously. At least six people were killed and 76 could not be contacted following the quake.

At least four midsized buildings in worst-hit Hualien county leaned at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, glass, iron and other debris. Firefighters climbed ladders hoisted against windows to reach residents inside apartments.

The shifting of the buildings after the magnitude 6.4 quake late Tuesday night was likely caused by soil liquefaction, when the ground beneath a building loses its solidity under stress such as that caused by an earthquake.

A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the basement of the Marshal Hotel said the force of the earthquake was unusual even for a region used to temblors.

“At first it wasn’t that big ... we get this sort of thing all the time and it’s really nothing. But then it got really terrifying,” the worker, Chen Ming-hui, told Taiwan’s official Central News Agency after he was reunited with his son and grandson following the quake. “It was really scary.”

Two employees of the hotel were killed in the disaster, CNA said. Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said rescuers freed another employee from the rubble.

Other buildings slanted at alarming degrees and rescuers used ladders, ropes and cranes to move residents to safety.

Six people were killed in the quake, while 256 others were injured and 76 unaccounted for, according to the fire agency. CNA reported that seven had been killed.

The force of the tremor buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households, the fire agency said.

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