Youth pulled alive from quake rubble - Emirates24|7

Youth pulled alive from quake rubble

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Latest: Taiwan rescuers pulled a 20-year-old man from the rubble of a collapsed building in the southern city of Tainan on Sunday more than a day after a strong earthquake hit the island, television reported.

Rescuers raced against time Sunday to free more than 100 people still buried beneath the rubble of apartment blocks felled by a powerful earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 18 dead.

The death toll is rising as emergency workers dig to find survivors of the 6.4-magnitude quake that toppled the 16-storey apartment complex containing almost 100 homes in the city of Tainan on Saturday.

"Of the 132 people desperately waiting for rescue, 103 people are buried very deep, there's no way to get to them direct, it's very difficult," said Tainan mayor William Lai early Sunday.

Lai said the rescue operation had started smoothly but ran into difficulties as emergency workers tried to get to residents in two apartment blocks that had been crushed beneath the other two neighbouring towers.

"Because the quake has damaged the structure of the whole complex, for safety considerations we had to do some work to fix them (the crushed towers) before digging," Lai said.

Tainan fire department updated the figures after Lai's briefing, with 127 now estimated as missing.
Census records show around 260 people living in the block but Lai said it was now thought that more than 300 had been inside at the time of the quake.

Officials have said that some students renting rooms would not have been registered as living in the building, and additional family members may also have returned there to celebrate next week's Lunar New Year holidays.

More than 250 have already been rescued with emergency workers using cranes, ladders and sniffer dogs to trace and extract survivors.

Meanwhile, survivors spoke of their terror and relief.

One man told AFP how he was rescued after tapping on a wardrobe that was trapping him.

"I knocked on the closet to get the attention of rescuers who broke the window to get me," said resident Su Yi-ming, 48, who lived with his family on the sixth floor of the Wei-kuan complex.

"My mind went blank when the quake struck, it shook violently and the house just came down. I couldn't react."

Su escaped uninjured, with his wife and their two children sustaining minor injuries.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) at around 4:00 am Saturday morning (2000 GMT Friday), 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
The island's worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6 magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.

10-day old baby girl dead

Relatives of missing residents from a 16-storey apartment complex felled by a powerful earthquake in Taiwan that killed 13 people were praying for miracles Saturday as rescuers scoured the rubble for survivors.

Among the nine people killed when the apartment complex collapsed were a 10-day old baby girl and two other children, the National Fire Agency said.

The other two victims were killed in different parts of the city by falling debris, the agency said.

A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations Saturday, with at least seven dead and more than 30 feared trapped.

The death toll was rising in the historic city of Tainan, which bore the brunt of the 6.4-magnitude quake, as rescuers scoured rubble for survivors.

An entire residential complex of four buildings containing almost 100 homes toppled, left on its side with twisted metal girders exposed and clouds of dust rising from the jumbled concrete.

Among the seven dead was a 10-day old baby girl, the National Fire Agency said -- she was one of five people who were killed when the apartment complex collapsed.
The other two victims were killed in different parts of the city by falling debris, the agency said.

Officials say they are unsure how many residents may still be inside, but media reports estimated at least 30 could be trapped.

Earlier report

A powerful earthquake in Taiwan felled a 16-storey apartment complex full of families who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the early hours of Saturday, with at least five dead and more than 30 feared trapped.

The 6.4-magnitude quake struck in the middle of the night and as day dawned it revealed the destruction left behind in the city of Tainan, which bore the brunt of the damage.

An entire residential complex containing almost 100 homes toppled to the ground, lying on its side with twisted metal girders exposed.

A 10-day old baby girl and a 40-year-old man were pulled dead from the building, National Fire Agency officials said, with reports that around 30 more were still trapped inside.

A third woman died after being hit by a falling water tank at another site with no details immediately available of the other two deaths, the fire agency said.

Residents at the 16-storey felled Wei-kuan Building told of their terror as the quake hit.

"I saw buildings shake up and down and left and right," said one resident.

"The first and second floor just collapsed and I smelt gas and water was leaking," he told local channel SET TV.

Another man tied his clothes together to create a rope and lowered himself from his home on the ninth floor to the sixth floor below, Apple Daily reported.

One woman told how she had fought her way out of her home.

"I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out," she told local channel SET TV, weeping as she spoke.

Rescuers have freed more than 200 people from the Wei-kuan building, with over 40 of them hospitalised.

Interior minister Chen Wei-jen said he feared there may be more people in the building than usual as family members would have returned to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays next week.

"Exactly how many people were there when the quake hit was not immediately clear," said Chen.

"We are concerned that most members of those families may have returned for the coming new year holiday."

'Dazed and exhausted'

Officials said there were 256 residents registered as living in the building, which contained 96 apartments.

Dazed and exhausted residents stood outside the toppled building, watching rescue workers take survivors from the rubble and carefully hand them down ladders.

Television footage showed two small children wrapped in blankets being plucked from the building.

As Premier Chang San-cheng visited the disaster zone, one elderly woman wept, saying her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were still trapped on the 15th floor, Apple Daily reported.

Cranes towered over the disaster zone with diggers trying to remove slabs of concrete.

Officials were unable to give an estimate of how many were still trapped as they scoured the building.

Separately, at least 30 people were earlier freed from another residential seven-storey building.

Across Tainan, 316 people had been injured, with more than 60 hospitalised, officials said.

The shallow quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) around 2000 GMT Friday, according to the US Geological Survey, 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city on the island and an important port.

The quake was initially reported as having a magnitude of 6.7, but was downgraded to 6.4.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

A strong 6.3-magnitude quake that hit central Taiwan in June 2013 killed four people and caused widespread landslides.

A 7.6-magnitude quake struck the island in September 1999 and killed around 2,400 people.

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