Rescuers race to save over 120 buried after Taiwan quake

Rescuers race to save over 120 buried after Taiwan quake

Rescuers raced today to free more than 120 people buried under the rubble of an apartment complex felled by an earthquake in southern Taiwan that left 29 confirmed dead, as an investigation began into the collapse.

The death toll rose as emergency workers dug for survivors of the 6.4-magnitude quake that toppled the 16-storey complex of almost 100 homes in the city of Tainan yesterday.
Officials said an investigation had been launched as questions were raised over the safety of the residential blocks in the complex.

Tainan mayor William Lai said survivors and relatives had reported legal "violations" but gave no further detail. "I've contacted judicial units and prosecutors have formally launched an investigation," said Lai.

"We've also commissioned three independent bodies to preserve evidence during the rescue so we can assist the residents if they want to file lawsuits in the future. We will hold the builder responsible if they have broken the law."

Local media reported the construction company that built the complex had gone out of business and also raised questions over the quality of the materials used.

Yueh Chin-sen, whose mother-in-law's family of eight is still trapped, said the residents had complained of defects in the building.

"They complained that the building wasn't well constructed as there were cracks in the walls and tiles fell off after several quakes in recent years," he told AFP.

"I hope the government will prosecute the builder on criminal charges as people lost their lives."

Rescuers said 122 residents were still missing, with 103 of them trapped "very deep" in the rubble, according to Lai.

"There's no way to get to them direct, it's very difficult," Lai said, adding that emergency workers were having to shore up the ruins to ensure they were secure before digging.
Several survivors were pulled from the rubble today, more than 24 hours after the quake struck, as rescuers used life detectors in their desperate search.

One 20-year-old man was freed from the ruins after emergency workers spent eight hours carefully digging him out.

Census records show around 260 people living in the blocks but Lai said it was now thought that more than 300 had been inside.

Officials have said that some students renting rooms would not have been registered as living in the building, and additional family members may have returned there to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday starting tomorrow.

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