The death toll from Saturday’s earthquake rose to 29 by press time last night as rescuers continued to comb the debris of a toppled building in Tainan’s Yongkang District (永康) for survivors and victims.
The 17-story Weiguan Jinlong residential complex collapsed after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck southern Taiwan at 3:57am on Saturday.
Of the 29 people known to have been killed by the quake so far, 27 were pulled from the Weiguan Jinlong building.
Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times
A total of 198 people have been rescued from the building, with at least 120 remaining unaccounted for.
“There are still 124 people waiting to be rescued, many of whom are trapped at the bottom of the wreckage,” Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said.
The mayor last night said rescuers were talking to two people, a male and a female trapped on different sides of the building.
Photo: Tyrone Siu, Reuters
He said rescue workers intended to pull them out, and then bring in heavier excavators to remove part of the structure so they could access the areas at the bottom.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) convened an emergency meeting yesterday.
“We pray for the survivors, and grieve for the deceased,” Ma said in a live broadcast on a government Web site. “We must not slow down on rescue efforts in the final phase of the first crucial 72 hours.”
Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times
During the morning, emergency workers pulled two survivors from the building: a 20-year-old man surnamed Huang (黃) and a 32-year-old man surnamed Chiu (邱), who were found on the 8th and 9th floors respectively.
Both Huang and Chiu sustained multiple injuries and were rushed to the National Cheng Kung University Hospital.
Huang was pulled from a different section of the building from where he lived, showing how distorted the building is, Lai said, adding that rescuers could only see him through a 10cm crack and it took eight hours to get him out.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
Earlier, at 9:50am, rescuers found an 18-year-old woman, surnamed Lai (賴), on the 16th floor, with no signs of life, almost eight hours after the bodies of her parents were discovered at about 2am.
The body of Lai’s 23-year-old sister was found on the same floor at 11am.
Rescuers were still searching for the Lais’ 15-year-old brother. During their search, they came across several red envelopes that appear to have been given to the two sisters before the Lunar New Year.
Photo: Chen Yi-yun, Taipei Times
Saturday’s quake, which was centered in Kaohsiung’s Meinong District (美濃), toppled several buildings and left many leaning, all in Tainan. The two-decade old Weiguan Jinlong building was the most severely damaged.
The Central Emergency Operations Center said that as of 3:50pm yesterday, a total of 3,919 emergency workers, 140 vehicles, 27 rescue dogs and two helicopters had been deployed for rescue operations.
The bodies of two children believed to be siblings — a seven-year-old girl and a six-month-old boy — were discovered on the 10th floor around noon.
Family members said the pair were staying with their maternal grandmother — whose body was recovered on Saturday afternoon — because their father, a military officer surnamed Wang (王), had to remain at his post in Tainan.
Wang was waiting outside the Weiguan Jinlong building in the morning, hoping for good news, only to see the children’s bodies.
Wang’s brother-in-law, Fang Yu-wei (方佑崴), said the youngsters were very outgoing and well-liked by the family, especially his mother.
“I just hope that the three of them can keep each other company in heaven,” he said.
The body of a man was found about 1:50pm on the 12th floor. He was later identified as a 20-year-old surnamed Lin (林).
People waiting outside the building cheered at 3pm when a six-month-old girl was found alive on the 11th floor. However, she was later pronounced dead at National Cheng Kung University Hospital. The bodies of her parents were also found.
A woman injured in the quake, surnamed Liu (劉), who lost her husband and 10-day-old daughter in the quake, yesterday prayed her two sons would be found.
“When the earthquake struck, my husband [surnamed Kang (康)] heroically protected me and my daughter, but only I was rescued,” Liu said.
Tu Ming-chung (杜銘忠), an uncle of Kang’s, said Liu and Kang were preparing to feed their daughter when the quake struck.
“Kang sought to shield his wife and daughter with his body, but he was hit in the head by the falling ceiling. Liu tried to cover her daughter with a curtain, but the baby was pronounced dead after being pulled from the debris,” Tu said.
Despite the rising death toll, emergency workers remained buoyed by an incident on Saturday, when a cat’s meowing helped them locate and rescue its two young owners, aged six and seven. The boys, surnamed Hu (胡), lived on the 10th floor of the Weiguan Jinlong building. Their father had been rescued shortly after the quake.
As the hours dragged by on Saturday and hopes of locating his sons appeared to be growing slim, the father swore an oath that he was willing to become a vegetarian in exchange for his boys’ safe return.
About noon, rescuers began hearing a cat meow. Tracking the sound, they located the boys and pulled them out — along with the cat.
“I am so thankful to Meow Meow [the cat’s name] for sticking by my sons’ side, rather than giving up and leaving. We have long treated him as part of the family, but will surely love him more in the future,” the father said.
In other developments, the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday urged people to refrain from rushing to donate blood, because blood banks have a sufficient supply for now and blood that is past its use-by date must be destroyed.
“It is estimated that the nation’s blood banks still have 6.5 days of supply. The blood stock in Tainan is still sufficient and Kaohsiung also has enough blood for seven days,” the ministry said.
Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵) finally resumed service between Taichung and Kaohsiung at 5pm. Service was halted after the quake because of damage to electrical lines north of the Chiayi Station.
The company said that HSR trains from Taipei would run as scheduled except cancellations that had already been announced.
It said full information about schedules and cancellations has been listed on its Web site.
Additional reporting by AP
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