A residential building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
A residential building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
In this image from TV, emergency services attend after a building collapsed onto its side, following an earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan. Picture: EBC via AP
In this image from TV, emergency services attend after a building collapsed onto its side, following an earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan. Picture: EBC via AP
Debris around a building as rescue workers gain entry after the building collapsed onto its side following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
Debris around a building as rescue workers gain entry after the building collapsed onto its side following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck late Tuesday near the coast of Taiwan, and scores of people may be trapped inside buildings. Picture: EBC via AP
A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck late Tuesday near the coast of Taiwan, and scores of people may be trapped inside buildings. Picture: EBC via AP
Rescuers are seen entering a building that collapsed onto its side from an early morning earthquake in Hualien County. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
Rescuers are seen entering a building that collapsed onto its side from an early morning earthquake in Hualien County. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen is briefed at the site of a collapsed building from an earthquake in Hualien, southeastern Taiwan. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen is briefed at the site of a collapsed building from an earthquake in Hualien, southeastern Taiwan. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, centre, is briefed at the site of a collapsed building in Hualien, southeastern Taiwan. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, centre, is briefed at the site of a collapsed building in Hualien, southeastern Taiwan. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
Rescue crews continue to try free people from damaged buildings after a strong earthquake hit near Taiwan's east coast and killed at least four people. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
Rescue crews continue to try free people from damaged buildings after a strong earthquake hit near Taiwan's east coast and killed at least four people. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
A building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
A building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
Taiwanese people look at a building that collapsed on its side from an early morning earthquake in Hualien County. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
Taiwanese people look at a building that collapsed on its side from an early morning earthquake in Hualien County. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, centre, at the site of a collapsed building from an earthquake in Hualien. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, centre, at the site of a collapsed building from an earthquake in Hualien. Picture: Taiwan Presidential Office via AP
A residential building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
A residential building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake in Hualien, southern Taiwan. Picture: Central News Agency via AP
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake has struck eastern Taiwan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake has struck eastern Taiwan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Picture: Hualien County Fire Bureau via AP

Hualien, Taiwan - Rescuers combed through the rubble of collapsed buildings on Wednesday, as they searched for about 60 people missing after a strong earthquake killed at least five near the popular Taiwanese tourist city of Hualien overnight.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, which hit near the coastal city just before midnight (1600 GMT) on Tuesday, also injured 243 people and collapsed four buildings, officials said.

Hualien Mayor Fu Kun-chi said the number of people missing was now close to 60, although an exact figure was not provided. As many as 150 were initially feared missing.

Many of the missing were believed to be still trapped inside buildings, some of which were tilting precariously, after the quake hit about 22 km (14 miles) northeast of Hualien on Taiwan's east coast.

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

Among the injured were mainland Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean nationals.

"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."

Aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks, the government said. Smaller tremors rattled nervous residents throughout the day.

Residents waited and watched anxiously as emergency workers dressed in fluorescent orange and red suits and wearing helmets searched for residents trapped in apartment blocks.

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 1 900 without power. Water supply had returned to nearly 5 000 homes by noon (0400 GMT), while power was restored to around 1 700 households.

DAMAGE, PANIC

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 cordoned-off roads. Others spoke of the panic when the earthquake struck.

"We were still open when it happened," said Lin Ching-wen, who operates a restaurant near a damaged military hospital.

"I grabbed my wife and children and we ran out and tried to rescue people," he said.

A Reuters video showed large cracks in the road, while police and emergency services tried to help anxious people roaming the streets. A car sat submerged in rubble as rescue workers combed through the ruins of a nearby building.

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

"The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the 'disaster mechanism' and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work," Tsai's office said in a statement.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world's largest contract chipmaker and major Apple supplier, said initial assessments indicated no impact from the earthquake.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory, lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck nearby on Sunday.

More than 100 people were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 7.6 magnitude quake that was felt across the island and killed more than 2,000 people in 1999.