Seven dead, 67 missing after Taiwan quake

Rescuers have combed through the rubble of collapsed buildings, in a search for 67 people missing after a strong earthquake that killed at least seven near Taiwan's popular tourist city of Hualien.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, which hit near the coastal city just before midnight on Tuesday, injured 260 people and caused four buildings to collapse, officials said.

Late on Wednesday, another strong quake was felt in the same area.

Hualien mayor Fu Kun-chi said the number of people missing was now close to 60. As many as 150 were initially feared missing.

Many of the missing were believed to be still trapped inside buildings, some of which tilted precariously after the quake struck about 22km northeast of Hualien on Taiwan's east coast.

At the city's Marshal Hotel, rescuers trying to free two trapped Taiwanese pulled one out alive, but the other person was declared dead, the government said.

A total of 31 foreign nationals, including mainland Chinese, Czechs, Japanese, Singaporeans and South Koreans were among the injured, the foreign ministry said.

Pope Francis expressed his "solidarity with all those affected" in a statement from the Vatican.

"This is the worst earthquake in the history of Hualien, or at least over the past 40 years that I've been alive," said volunteer Yang Hsi Hua.

"We've never had anything like this, we've never had a building topple over. Also, it was constantly shaking, so everyone was really scared, we ran to empty open spaces to avoid it."

There have been more than 160 aftershocks since the earthquake, with more expected over the next two weeks, according to Taiwain's Central Weather Bureau.

Hualien is home to about 100,000 people. Its streets were buckled by the force of the quake, with around 40,000 homes left without water and around 1900 without power.

Water supply had returned to nearly 5000 homes by noon, while power was restored to around 1700 households.

Emergency workers surrounded a badly damaged 12-storey residential building, a major focus of the rescue effort. Windows had collapsed and the building was wedged into the ground at a roughly 40-degree angle.

Rescuers worked their way around and through the building while residents looked on from behind cordons.

President Tsai Ing-wen went to the scene of the quake early on Wednesday to help direct rescue operations.

Reuters