Rescue worker search for victim at a collapsed building on Feb. 7, 2016 in Tainan, Taiwan. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan early Saturday, killing at least fourteen people, and leaving over one hundred missing. 
Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty

Taiwan earthquake: Survivors pulled from rubble of ‘suspiciously cheap’ building

TAINAN, Taiwan — Families waited anxiously on Sunday as rescuers painstaking pulled survivors from the remains of a high-rise residential building that collapsed in a powerful, shallow earthquake in southern Taiwan, which has killed at least 26 people.

The emergency center in Tainan, the worst-hit city, said that 171 people had been rescued from the building following the magnitude-6.4 quake that struck at dawn Saturday.

Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te said in interviews from the site of the building collapse that 124 people were estimated to be still trapped, many at the bottom of the wreckage. Lai said that they had been able to rescue many people by using information from residents who got out.

Eighth-floor resident Huang Guang-wei was pulled out Sunday morning from a different section from where he lived, showing how distorted the building is, Lai said. Rescuers could see Huang only through a 10-centimeter (4-inch) crack and it took eight hours to get him out, Lai said.

Also rescued from the rubble was Chiu Guo-hsiung, 32, who was able to tell rescuers his name and other information. A woman and a 6-month-old baby girl were pulled out and rushed to a hospital.

A man in his 60s, whose son escaped and whose daughter-in-law was in serious condition in a hospital, was trying to help rescuers pinpoint his grandsons. “My 11- and 12-year-old grandsons are still inside on the ninth floor,” said the man, who only gave his surname, Huang. “I told my son not to buy an apartment here; it was suspiciously cheap.”

Beside him, another man nodded in agreement as he waited for news of his own relatives on the seventh floor.

The city government said at least 22 of the confirmed deaths were from the building collapse. They said that 171 had been rescued from the building, 90 of whom were sent to a hospital. More than 100 people were rescued from other parts of the city, eight of whom received hospital treatment.

The spectacular fall of the 17-story high-rise immediately raised questions about its construction. Tainan’s government said 1989 structure was not listed as a dangerous structure before the quake, and the interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners. Nine other buildings in the city collapsed and five careened.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage. However, a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

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