5 killed in Taiwan quake

Monday, April 1, 2002

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Cranes and scaffolding at a high-rise building site crashed to the ground after a powerful earthquake jolted Taiwan on Sunday, killing five construction workers, authorities said.

More than 200 injuries were reported across the island, mostly minor, as the quake started fires, shattered windows and cracked walls. Local officials said it registered magnitude 6.8, but the U.S. Geological Survey estimated it higher, at 7.1.

Two cranes fell from the 60th floor of a high-rise building under construction. Television footage showed the cranes tumbling down from the top of the structure, bringing steel beams and chunks of cement down with it.

Police identified the victims as two crane operators and three other construction workers. Dozens of other workers, many of them from Thailand, ran down from the structure safely, witnesses said.

Falling debris

One crane brought down large chunks of scaffolding, witnesses said. The second crane fell down the other side of the building and smashed several cars, they said.

About 10 people were hurt by the falling debris, including a woman whose hand was severed when part of a crane came crashing down on her car.

"I pulled over my car and ran for a few steps before I saw a falling steel beam smashing another car, right in front of me," taxi driver Wang Tien-tse told the TVBS television station.

The building under construction -- the Taipei Financial Center -- will be Taipei's tallest when completed, towering more than 100 stories high.

Officials said the cranes were attached to a temperary steel structure and the tremor may have loosened the screws, causing them to fall. An investigation will be conducted on the accident, they said.

Elsewhere in Taipei, the capital, buildings rocked back and forth, cracks appeared in walls and frightened people ran from homes and churches. State radio said that gas leaks started several small fires.

An old four-story building in downtown Taipei partially collapsed and was tilting toward the street. Rescue workers pulled seven people, including three children, from the structure and no others were believed trapped inside.

Wang Mei-man was on the third floor of her brothers' office in downtown Taipei when the quake struck. The entire room shook, including tables and other heavy furniture.

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