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Rescuers race to find quake survivors in Taiwan

Search teams in Taiwan worked through the night to rescue survivors trapped after an earthquake reduced several buildings to rubble. At least 14 people have died and there are fears for 150 who are still missing.

Emergency crews aided by sniffer dogs, acoustic equipment and ladders scoured wrecked buildings in the southern city of Tainan for signs of life overnight into Sunday. Several large structures collapsed or were left severely damaged when the 6.4-magnitude quake struck the region just before dawn on Saturday.

Rescue efforts so far have mainly focused on a 17-story apartment block inside the Wei Guan complex, which was leveled by the tremor. Authorities said nine people, including a 10-day-old baby girl, were killed when the high-rise collapsed. Local media said the building included a care center for newborns and mothers.

"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.

Rescuers have freed more than 250 people from the building complex, but Tainan's mayor, Lai Ching-te, said the search for five missing residents would continue.

More people were killed by falling debris in other parts of Tainan, bringing the death toll to 14. Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital.

Watch video 02:00

Strong quake hits Taiwan

Dodgy building?

Television footage showed the Wei Guan structure's multiple levels pancaking on top of each other like an accordion when the tremor hit, prompting questions about its construction.

Tainan's government said the building was not listed as a dangerous structure before the quake, but one city official said there was a possibility it had structural problems related to poor quality reinforced steel and cement.

Taiwan's interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, has pledged an investigation to examine whether the developer cut corners during construction. According to Reuters, the companies that built the complex in 1989 are no longer operating.

A baby boy is pulled from the wreckage

A baby boy is pulled from the wreckage of a collapsed apartment building in Tainan

Offers of help

Shelters were set up around Tainan for displaced residents, while restaurants and hotels offered free food and rooms. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou spent Saturday visiting disaster areas and a hospital in the city of 2 million.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered to help with the rescue and relief efforts. China has also offered rescue assistance if needed, according to state news agency Xinhua. Beijing regards Taiwan as a wayward province.

Authorities said the quake, which struck just before the Lunar New Year holiday, had left around 400,000 without water and more than 2,000 homes without electricity.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake's epicenter was 43 kilometers (27 miles) southeast of Tainan, at a depth of 23 kilometers. A major earthquake in Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,400 people and caused damage across the island.

nm/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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