BEIJING — A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early Saturday, leveling at least one residential building and killing at least two people, Taiwanese officials said.
Residents in the city of Tainan, along Taiwan’s western coast, said the shaking began about 4 a.m., lasted for nearly two minutes and caused blackouts, according to local reports.
In one neighborhood, a 17-story apartment building with at least 150 housing units appeared to have collapsed. In another area, several office buildings looked severely damaged, and rubble filled the streets.
The Taiwanese authorities said they had mobilized the national army to search through the rubble, and as of early Saturday, 221 people had been rescued. A 10-day-old girl and a 40-year-old man were confirmed dead and dozens were injured, officials said, and there were reports of people trapped inside razed vegetable markets and tilted apartment buildings.
As dawn broke, a scene of chaos emerged along many streets, raising fears of the possibility of casualties ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.
“Where are the people?” said a headline on local television. “The agony of not being able to find your family.”
The earthquake was particularly shallow, with a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey, increasing the odds for severe damage. The epicenter of the quake was about 30 miles southeast of Tainan, Taiwan’s oldest city.
In social media posts, residents of Tainan, which has a population of nearly two million, said they had flashbacks to a 1999 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people, one of the worst natural disasters in Taiwan’s history, though there was no indication that the damage on Saturday was comparable.
“I was terrified,” said a woman who gave her last name as Lin, according to United Daily News, a Taiwanese newspaper. She said she rushed out of her apartment when the shaking began, fearing she would be trapped inside.
At the site of the collapsed 17-story apartment building, in the Yongkang district, a mother stood crying. While she and her son had been able to escape, her daughter remained inside the building, according to a report in Apple Daily, a Taiwanese newspaper.
High-speed trains were canceled, and more than 120,000 housing units were said to be without electricity. Gas and water pipes were also reported to be damaged.