The death toll from the earthquake on Saturday last week rose to 62 yesterday as rescuers pulled nine bodies from the ruins of the Weiguan Jinlong complex in Tainan, while rain that began to fall at about 5pm brought with it lower temperatures.
Members of two families were among those retrieved from the disaster site in Yongkang District (永康), including two brothers, and a man and a woman whose identity has yet to be confirmed.
One of the families, surnamed Cheng (鄭), were from New Taipei City’s Sindian District and were spending the Lunar New Year holiday in an apartment on the 13th floor of Building G, which was owned by the sister of Cheng’s wife.
Four members of the other family, surnamed Tsai (蔡), died in the quake. The father is the only survivor. Rescuers said that the grandmother of the family was holding tight to her granddaughter when their bodies were found.
As of 5:44pm, the Tainan City Government said 62 people are still believed to be under the rubble.
A woman whose relatives are among those still missing in the ruins yesterday accused the city of allowing a large excavator to be driven onto the remains of Building G to rescue survivors.
She said that the additional weight of the excavator could further crush the bodies of the victims still under the rubble.
Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) apologized to the relatives of the missing, saying the leader of a rescue team had mistakenly allowed the large piece of machinery to be moved into a cordoned-off area.
He said he had asked that the excavator be removed immediately.
However, Lai defended the use of large excavators, saying that they were being used to save lives by helping clear the way for search teams to find survivors and preserve the bodies of the deceased.
Structural engineers assisting the rescue teams at the site said that having an excavator on top of the building should not hurt any possible survivors or bodies because the building was supported by at least two beams and a wall.
Heavy rainfall did impede the search efforts later in the day and military personnel covered several locations with tarps in an attempt to prevent the rain from triggering further collapses inside the rubble.
Meanwhile, the electronics store chain TsannKuen Co (燦坤實業) denied that it had remodeled a store on the ground floor of the Weiguang Jinlong complex.
TsannKuen general manager Chang Yueh-long (張岳龍) showed reporters photographs of the store when they leased it as well as the contract banning the firm from making structural changes.
“We have rented the ground floor and the second floor since 2004 and never remodeled them,” Chang said.
There have been allegations that the landlord who owned the first four floors of buildings A, B and C in the complex had removed all of the beams and columns on those floors, which might have made the buildings less stable in an earthquake.