At least four people, including an eight-year-old girl, were rescued yesterday from a high-rise Taiwanese apartment building toppled by a powerful earthquake two days earlier, as frustration grew among families waiting for search teams to reach their buried loved ones.
More than 100 people are believed to still be under the debris in a disaster that struck during the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar – the Lunar New Year.
Saturday’s quake killed at least 38 people in Tainan in southern Taiwan, all but two of them in the collapse of the 17-storey building. Even though the 6.4-magnitude earthquake was shallow, few structures were reported to have been damaged, which experts said was because Taiwan’s building standards are high.
Authorities have managed to rescue more than 170 people – the vast majority in the immediate hours after the disaster – from the folded building using information about the building layout and the possible location of those trapped.
Five survivors were believed to have been pulled out on Sunday, and at least four yesterday. One of them, Tsao Wei-ling, called out “Here I am” as rescuers dug through to find her.
She was found under the body of her husband, who had shielded her from a collapsed beam, it was reported. Tsao’s husband and two-year-son were found dead, and five other members of the family remained unaccounted for.
Teams also rescued a 42-year-old man from the building and, later, an eight-year-old girl, who had been trapped for more than 61 hours.
Mayor Lai Ching-Te told reporters he briefly exchanged words with the girl, Lin Su-chin.
“She is awake, but looks dehydrated, lost some temperature but she’s awake and her blood pressure is OK,” he said. “I asked her if there’s anything wrong with her body. She shook her head.”
Shortly afterwards, rescue workers also pulled out a 28-year-old Vietnamese woman, identified as Chen Mei-jih, who had been trapped on what was the building’s fifth floor.
Family members of the missing flooded into the information centre in search of their loved ones or to wait anxiously.
Tensions rose as some relatives, losing patience, demanded to speak to rescue workers directly to get the latest information.
A couple sitting in a small room where officials release information said they had heard no news about their daughter-in-law and two young grandsons.
“Does that mean we are here to wait for bodies?” grandfather Liu Meng-hsun cried out angrily.
Outside, a woman stood at the edge of the rubble shouting: “Your grandma is here!” Rescuers had detected life within the area where the 16th-floor apartment of her son and his family was thought to be, and were said to have heard the sound of a child.
Her son got out of the building soon after the earthquake, but his wife and their four-year-old girl remained trapped, according to volunteers assisting the family.