An earthquake hit the south west coast of Taiwan at approximately 4am on 6 February during the Lunar New Year holiday, with a large number of casualties found in the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building.

Rescue efforts have blocked off all areas surrounding the buildings that have been hit, amid a desperate search to find survivors, focusing mainly on the wreckage of the 17-storey building in Tainan, where many are still missing and are expected to be buried deep under the debris.

Taiwan earthquake
Rescue personnel help a child rescued at the site where a 17-storey building collapsed during an earthquake in Tainan, southern TaiwanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
Rescue workers remove people from the site where a 17-storey apartment building collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
Bystanders look on during a search and rescue operation at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
A rescue worker leaves the site of a collapsed building (back L) in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
Collapsed buildings can be clearly seen in this aerial picture taken after a powerful earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
Bystanders look on during a rescue and search operation at the site of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
Relatives of trapped residents waiting while the rescue operation continues in Tainan, TaiwanAshley Pon/ Getty Images
Taiwan earthquake
A solider looks after a dog whose owner was killed from the earthquake in Tainan, TaiwanAshley Pon/ Getty Images
Taiwan earthquake
Vehicles are seen damaged after a powerful earthquake hit Tainan, TaiwanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
A woman cries while waiting for news of her relatives who were inside a 17-storey apartment building which collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanPichi Chuang/ Reuters

Taiwan has not witnessed an earthquake as serious as this since 1999, when one with a magnitude of 7.6 hit the country's central and surrounding areas, killing more than 2,300 people. Speaking to reporters at a Tainan hospital, newly elected President Ma Ying-jeou said that the government needed to do a better job in ensuring building quality. He stressed there needed to be a "general sorting out" of old buildings to make sure they were able to cope with natural disasters such as earthquakes, and "there needs to be a continued strengthening of their ability to deal with disasters," he added.

Rescue operations have been carried out cautiously to avoid damage to the building's structure and secondary collapse, according to the local fire department. Rescuers said they have identified several other signs of life inside the building and are searching through the rubble for more survivors.

Large machinery-like excavators are waiting to be used, as the rescue operation has entered a crucial phase.

Taiwan earthquake
Rescue workers transport a body from the site where a 17-story building collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
A crushed car is left in the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
Rescue worker use a crane to transport a victim found in the rubble at the Wei-kuan apartment complex on the second day of rescue operations in Tainan, TaiwanAshley Pon/ Getty Images
Taiwan earthquake
Rescue personnel search the rubble of a 17-storey building that collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
A rescue worker looks for survivors as he walks on the rubble of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
A man cries after his mother is confirmed dead near a collapsed building in Tainan, TaiwanLam Yik Fei/ Getty Images
Taiwan earthquake
A damaged building is on the verge of tipping over after a powerful earthquake hit Tainan, Southern TaiwanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
Rescue personnel walk to the site where a 17-storey building collapsed in an earthquake in Tainan, southern TaiwanPichi Chuang/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
Monks pray next to a list of the patients near a collapsed building on 7 February 2016 in Tainan, TaiwanLam Yik Fei/ Getty Images
Taiwan earthquake
Rescue workers remove people from the site where a 17-storey apartment building collapsed after an earthquake hit TainanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
Crushed vehicles are seen under a building that was damaged after a powerful earthquake hit Tainan, TaiwanReuters
Tainan quake survivor
Rescuers carry a survivor from the site where a 17-storey apartment building collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
A relative cries after his family member was confirmed dead at a 17-storey apartment building that collapsed after an earthquake hit TainanReuters
Taiwan earthquake
A woman weeps while waiting for news of her relatives who are inside a 17-storey building which collapsed after an earthquake hit Tainan, southern TaiwanPichi Chuang/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
A worker places a photo of a victim at a mass funeral for earthquake victims at Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
A crane is used in the rescue and search operations that continue at the site where a building complex which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAntony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
Cranes and heavy equipment being used for rescue operations at the site where a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
A rescue worker prepares to look for survivors in the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of TainanAnthony Wallace/ AFP
Taiwan earthquake
A 17-storey apartment building which collapsed after an earthquake is seen during sunset in Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters
Taiwan earthquake
Lanterns are seen in front of the 17-storey apartment building which collapsed after an earthquake, on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Tainan, southern TaiwanTyrone Siu/ Reuters