Rescuers pull out survivors from earthquake rubble

A rescue worker brings down a victim from the collapsed Wei Kuan building in Taiwan. Picture: Getty
A rescue worker brings down a victim from the collapsed Wei Kuan building in Taiwan. Picture: Getty
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With anxious families waiting nearby, rescuers yesterday pulled more survivors from the remains of Wei Kuan apartment building that collapsed a day earlier in a powerful earthquake that shook southern Taiwan and killed at least 26 people.

More than 100 remained buried in the building’s rubble.

Authorities in Tainan, the worst-hit city, said that more than 170 people had been rescued from the 17-story building, which folded like an accordion after the quake struck.

Mao Yi-chen, 20, was rescued soon after the magnitude-6.4 quake hit before dawn on 
Saturday and her older sister Mao Yi-hsuan was pulled out yesterday in serious condition.

A rescue worker had handed over a photo album and homemade cards found next to her for her family to collect, said local official Wang Ding-yu.

“He said that `maybe your home is damaged, but memories of the family can last,”’ Mr Wang said.

Tainan mayor Lai Ching-te said authorities estimated that 124 people were still trapped, many at the bottom of the wreckage. He said rescuers were able to reach many people by using information from residents who got out about the possible locations of those still inside.

Two of the trapped, a male and a female at different sides of the building, were talking to rescue workers yesterday evening, Mr Lai said.

He added that rescuers intended to pull them out, and then bring in heavier excavators to remove part of the structure on top to allow access to the areas at the bottom. The spectacular fall of the high-rise, built in 1989, raised questions about whether its construction had been of a high enough standard.

Taiwan’s government said the building had not been listed as a dangerous structure, and Taiwan’s interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners.

Eighth-floor resident Huang Guang-wei was pulled out from a different section from where he lived, showing how distorted the building is, Mr Lai said.

Rescuers could see Huang only through a 10cm crack and it took eight hours to get him out, Lai said.

Among the fatalities was a six-month-old baby girl who was pulled from the rubble and rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

A deceased man believed to be her father was pulled out 40 minutes later, Mr Wang said.