TAINAN // At least four people, including an eight-year-old girl, were rescued on Monday from a toppled high-rise apartment building in Taiwan more than 60 hours after an earthquake struck the island.
More than 100 people are believed to be still under the debris in a disaster that hit just before the Lunar New Year, the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The earthquake on Saturday killed at least 38 people in Tainan city in southern Taiwan, 36 of them in the collapse of the 17-storey building.
Five survivors were pulled out on Sunday and four on Monday.
One, Tsao Wei-ling, called out “Here I am”, as rescuers dug through to find her, Taiwan’s Eastern Broadcasting reported.
She was found under the body of her husband, who had shielded her from a collapsed beam, the government-run Central News Agency reported.
He died along with their son, aged 2, and five other members of the family have not been found.
Teams on Monday also rescued a 42-year-old man from the building, and later the eight-year-old girl, who had been trapped for more than 61 hours.
Mayor Lai Ching-te briefly spoke 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,” Mr Lai said. “I asked her if there was anything wrong with her body. She shook her head.” Shortly afterwards, rescue workers also pulled out a Vietnamese woman identified as Chen Mei-jih, 28, who had been trapped on what was the building’s fifth floor.
Authorities have rescued more than 170 people – the vast majority in the immediate hours after the quake – from the folded building.
Family members of the missing flooded into the information centre in search of their loved ones or to wait for news.
Tempers flared 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 son and his family, including their 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 reportedly heard the sound of a child.
Her son, with the surname Wu, got out of the building soon after the quake but his wife and their daughter, 4, remained trapped, according to volunteers assisting the family.
The 6.4-magnitude quake was shallow but few buildings were reported to have been damaged, which experts said was because of Taiwan’s high building standards.
Earthquakes rattle Taiwan frequently. Most are minor and cause little or no damage, although a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.
The extended Lunar New Year holiday officially started on Monday but celebrations were subdued. President Ma Ying-jeou and president-elect Tsai Ing-wen cancelled the traditional handing out of envelopes of cash in their hometowns.
* Associated Press