At least four people were killed and over 200 were injured as a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the east coast of Taiwan late on Tuesday, February 6. The China Earthquake Networks Centre said that the epicentre was at 24.2 degrees north latitude and 121.72 degrees east longitude. The depth was quite shallow at just 10 km.
The jolt led to buildings crumbling with hundreds of people trapped inside and about 150 are still missing, reported Channel NewsAsia. The port city of Hualien was worst hit and a hotel and a residential block have faced severe damage.
"It's the biggest quake I've experienced in Hualien in more than 10 years," resident Blue Hsu told the Agence France-Presse.
He also spoke about the Marshal Hotel and revealed that several floors had crumbled. "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," he added.
Rescue operations are on and while several trapped people have been pulled out of the Marshal Hotel, two are still said to be inside. "We know there are people who are trapped inside - we can see lights inside the hotel," eyewitness Zeena Starbuck told the BBC.
"People with phones are shining their lights to let people know they're there."
Schools and offices have been closed for the day. About 40,000 homes are reportedly without water and 600 homes are also in the dark. Highways and bridges too have been closed. Residents of the city have been asked to stay indoors and the army has now been called for to aid the rescue operations.
Hualien, a port city, is not only home to over 100,000 people and is also extremely popular with tourists.
President Tsai Ing-wen has reached Hualien and her office, in a statement, said: "The government team has now been mobilised and will work on disaster relief as fast as they can. 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."
Taiwan has faced more than 100 tremors so far this month and the island regularly experiences tremors due to its location near a junction of two tectonic plates. The earthquake hit Taiwan on the second anniversary of the 2016 quake which was also measured at 6.4 magnitude and wreaked havoc killing about 120 people.