Mon, Feb 08, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Earthquake Aftermath: Quake death toll in Tainan rises to 29

HEAVY LIFTING:Tainan’s mayor said crews were talking to two people in the rubble, but once they were rescued, excavators would be brought in to lift some of the debris

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with agencies

Rescue workers yesterday comfort a frightened three-and-a-half-year-old boy after he was rescued from the wreck of the collapsed Weiguan Jinlong residential building in Tainan’s Yongkang District.

Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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