At least two people were killed and more than 200 were injured in a powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake that rocked waters near Taiwan's Hualien County on Tuesday. The government said that buildings were crumbled and people were trapped inside due to the quake.
China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC) said that the epicentre was monitored at 24.13 degrees north latitude and 121.71 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 11 km. The quake, which took place at 11.50 pm, was felt across Taiwan and the highway from Suao to Hualien was temporarily closed.
According to the national fire agency, a hotel and a residential block were the worst hit by the quake in the port city of Hualien. Reports said that three people were trapped in the the Marshal Hotel that was partly crumpled into the ground.
The rescue workers were seen trying to free people from its upper floors. The officials from the Hualien fire department said that 149 people had been rescued from damaged buildings so far.
Television footage showed the roads strewn with rubble, cracks along highways and damaged buildings tilted at angles. A Reuters video showed large cracks in the road, while police and emergency services tried to help anxious people roaming the streets.
"It's the biggest quake I've experienced in Hualien in more than 10 years," Blue Hsu, a resident told AFP, who said his home shook violently.
When asked about the Marshal Hotel, Hsu said: "The lower floors sunk into the ground and I saw panicked tourists being rescued from the hotel. There is one bulldozer and about 50 rescuers on the scene."
On Wednesday, President Tsai Ing-wen went to the scene of the quake to help direct the rescue operations. "The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the 'disaster mechanism' and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work," the president's office said in a statement.
The streets of Hualien, which is home to about 100,000 people, were buckled due to the force of the massive earthquake. Around 40,000 homes were left without water and around 1,900 had no power.
Amy Chen, a 64-year-old flower arrangement teacher who was at home with her husband when the quake hit, said that she had never experienced an earthquake as large as this one. She told the Central News Agency: "I am terrified."
"The bookshelves in my home toppled and flower vases fell and broke. There are scattered glasses everywhere," she added.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's weather bureau told Asia One that there had been at least 15 aftershocks following the quake. However, this is not new to the island nation as about 100 sensible earthquakes have jolted the area since February 4. The government has also said that aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks.
In 2016, more than 100 people were killed in an earthquake in southern Taiwan. But, some Taiwanese remain scarred by a strong 7.6-magnitude quake that was jolted the island and killed more than 2,000 people in 1999.