taiwan earthquake.jpg
Photograph: EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

At least 11 people, including an infant, were killed and hundreds injured when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, authorities said.

A 17-storey apartment building collapsed in Tainan City's Yungkang district. It was said to be home to about 250 people in 96 households, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center.

Several other buildings in Tainan collapsed or were damaged by the quake that struck at 03:57 am (1937 GMT Friday).

A Central Emergency Operation Center official said six people, including a 10-day-old baby girl, were killed in the collapsed apartment building.

Li Wei-sen also said a 56-year-old woman was killed in another district of Tainan by a water tank that toppled from the roof of a building. In the same district, a 40-year-old man, found in a damaged hotel building, died of serious injures after he got hurt from falling furniture.

The emergency centre said more than 475 people were injured across southern Taiwan.

Emergency crews worked in the darkness to rescue people trapped in rubble. A city official said 16 buildings in Tainan were collapsed or seriously damaged.

Several people, who had been trapped under a collapsed building in Yungkang district for more than 10 hours, were rescued Saturday afternoon, state-run Central News Agency reported. Lai Ching-te, mayor of Tainan, said the search will continue through the night for residents of the building who were reported missing.

"It was horrible. I was so scared and jumped up from my bed immediately," 46-year-old Carol Chen, a Tainan resident who lives near the collapsed high-rise, said by phone.

Chen ran out of her building and saw many neighbours who all looked terrified, she said.

"I feel the quake was even more terrible than the big one I've experienced in 1999," Chen said.

The high-speed rail service was suspended in the southern region due to the earthquake.

The effects of the quake were felt throughout the island. It also surprised the entertainer Madonna, who is on tour with her band in Taiwan.

"We are all ok ... Hope that was the end of it," her manager Guy Oseary wrote on Instagram from Taipei.

The quake occurred just ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

President Ma Ying-jeou visited disaster areas in Tainan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered to help with the rescue and relief efforts.

More than 1,200 emergency crews and 800 soldiers have engaged in the rescue action in Tainan with the assistance of 23 rescue dogs and some advanced life detection systems.

In September 1999, Taiwan was hit by a magnitude-7.3 earthquake, which left more than 2,400 people dead.

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