Thousands of Taiwanese rescue and military personnel worked feverishly Saturday hoping to locate scores of people missing after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck near the city of Tainan along the island's southeast coast.
At least 15 were killed and about 150 are missing in the temblor that collapsed several buildings, including a high rise in Tainan, a city of 1.8 million, according to CNA, the official Taiwan news agency.
More than 250 residents lived in the 17-story residential building. A 10-day-old girl was found dead in the arms of her father, who was also killed, Reuters reported. Of the 14 killed, 11 were found in the building.
Questions were immediately raised about construction of the fallen high rise, which folded like an accordion onto its side, the Associated Press reported. Taiwan's Interior Ministry said there would be an investigation.
About 340 people were rescued in Tainan and there were nearly 500 injuries, although most were listed as minor, according to CNA. Two people were pulled from the rubble at night nearly 24 hours after the quake struck.
U.S.. State Department spokesman John Kirby issued a statement Saturday expressing "deepest condolences over the recent devastation and loss of life caused by the earthquake in southern Taiwan. The heartfelt thoughts of the American people are with all those affected in Taiwan."
Hung Chung-jye, chief surgeon at the National Chen Kung University Hospital in Tainan, where many patients were transported, said most of the injuries were minor and only 13 of 65 victims treated there were admitted, according to The New York Times.
The Taiwan News reported one boy was found when rescuers followed the sound of a meowing cat that was with the child. Water supplies were cut to 400,000 residents, some 120,000 were without power. High-speed rail service was halted to the southern half of the island, according to media reports.
The disaster occurred two days before the Lunar New Year celebration. Authorities feared that many of the buildings had higher occupancy rates as families gathered ahead of the holiday. Gas leaks and water pipe ruptures were reported throughout the city. Sirens wailed as authorities responded to the quake.
The temblor struck about 4 a.m. local time Saturday and was felt as far away as mainland China. U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Paul Caruso told the Los Angeles Times the quake was relatively shallow at six miles underground and thus capable of causing greater damage. It was located some 22 miles southeast of Yujing.
In the capital of Taipei on the other side of the island, the quake was felt as a lengthy, rolling shake. Taipei was quiet, with no sense of emergency or obvious damage.
The center of the earthquake was located about 15 miles from Pingtung, in southern Taiwan, according to the USGS. The city government there set up an emergency response center and urged onlookers not to block emergency crews, China Post reported.
There were at least four sharp aftershocks, the newspaper said.