China Power

38 Dead, 120 Missing After Taiwan Earthquake Collapses Apartment Building

As rescuers worked to find survivors, officials promised to look into the possibility of shoddy construction.

Shannon Tiezzi
38 Dead, 120 Missing After Taiwan Earthquake Collapses Apartment Building

Leaning and toppled buildings after the February 6 earthquake.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ koika

On February 6, an earthquake hit southern Taiwan, collapsing nine buildings and killing 38 people. The magnitude 6.4 earthquake caused major damage to Tainan City, most notably causing the collapse of a 16-story residential building – of the 38 confirmed dead, 36 were killed inside that apartment complex. Because of the timing of the quake, which hit just before 4 am local time, hundreds of residents were trapped inside. As of Monday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, 120 people were still missing, and feared to be buried in the rubble.

Photographs of the scene showed the Weiguan Jinlong apartment building toppled onto its side. By Saturday afternoon, 123 people had been rescued by emergency workers. Efforts continued through Monday, with an 8-year-old girl and a woman in her mid-20s both pulled from the rubble.

Sitting President Ma Ying-jeou, who has traveled to Tainan each day since the earthquake, promised that the government would do its utmost to find more survivors and to care for the victims. Meanwhile, president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (who will take office on May 20) also visited the disaster site. Her soon-to-be vice president, Chen Chien-jen, urged solidarity in the face of the destruction, saying “Everyone should now be called Tainaners.”

While visiting victims at a hospital in Tainan, Tsai also pledged that her government would conduct safety checks on some of Taiwan’s ageing buildings and support urban renewal projects. The head of the Central Weather Bureau’s Earthquake Forecast Center said the quake’s devastating effects on Tainan City were due to a combination of geologic factors and structural factors in the city’s buildings.

The Weiguan Jinlong building was constructed in 1983. The company that constructed the building has since gone out of business, but Taiwan’s interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said that the government would look into whether or not the construction was up to standards – and if not, whom should be held responsible.

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Meanwhile, from across the Taiwan Strait, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his “deepest sympathies” and condolences to those affected by the quake. He also emphasized the mainland’s willingness to help: “Compatriots across the Taiwan Strait are one family whose blood is thicker than water, and we would like to provide assistance in all aspects,” Xi said. By Saturday evening, 14 rescue workers from mainland China had arrived in Taiwan to assist with the search and rescue operations.