Scores of emergency workers combed the rubble at the foot of the 12-storey Yun Tsui apartment block that was left leaning at around a 50-degree angle by the quake, complicating rescue efforts due to fears of an imminent collapse.
"(We) are digging from the fourth floor down and even though the site is leaning at 45 degrees we are making an all-out effort for the rescue," the Hualien fire department said in a statement.
The bodies pulled from the site were of a 12-year-old boy, an adult man and an adult woman, rescuers said, meaning 12 of the 15 people killed in the quake perished in the Yun Tsui building.
Hualien, on Taiwan's picturesque east coast, is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, but the mountains that rise up behind the city are testament to the deadly tectonic fault lines that run through the island.
The island's worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6- magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.
That quake ushered in stricter building codes but many of Taiwan's older buildings remain perilously vulnerable to even moderate quakes.
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