More than 100 were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 1999 natural disaster with 7.6 magnitude whose impact was felt across the island and in which more than 2,000 people died. Four buildings collapsed, officials said, and about 58 people were still missing. Smaller tremors rattled nervous residents throughout the day.
Aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks, the government said.
"This is the worst natural disaster in the history of Hualien, or at least over the past 40 years that I've been alive", said volunteer Yang Hsi Hua. Aftershocks have continued today in Taiwan. One person was killed there and two were missing, officials said. The death toll had been put at seven overnight.
The lower floors of the 12-storey tower - which also housed a hotel - pancaked, leaving the structure leaning at a fifty-degree angle and sparking fears of an imminent collapse.
The estimate of missing was expected to drop further after some buildings were completely searched and no one was found, the state-owned Central News Agency reported.
The army has been called in to help with emergency rescues.
Taiwan is an island which has for all practical purposes been independent since 1950, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland.
Rescue workers used ladders and flash lights as they searched for survivors among the rubble on Thursday. Out of the 830 people, who were evacuated, 643 took refuge in temporary shelters.
'We're putting a priority on Hualien people being able to return home to check on their loved ones, ' Hsu said. Its streets were buckled by the force of the quake, with large cracks along major roads.
His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to express his solidarity with all those affected by the earthquakes in Taiwan these past days, and he offers the assurance of his prayers for those who have lost their lives and for those who have been injured.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck just before midnight Tuesday about 21 kilometres (13 miles) northeast of Hualien at a relatively shallow depth of about 10.6 kilometres (6.6 miles).
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According to reports , a hotel on the east coast of Taiwan has collapsed and at least 30 people are trapped in it. Officials from Hualien fire department said 28 people had been rescued from the hotel and a residential building.
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