TAIPEI: As rescuers in Taiwan said they had retrieved all the missing from the ruins of a building felled by an earthquake, a tragic picture emerged of the cross-section of society killed in the disaster.
The quake took the lives of 114 in the Wei-kuan apartment complex in the southern city of Tainan, from a 10-day-old baby to a 75-year-old woman.
Among the dead were a security guard, a mother-to-be, and the chair of the building’s management committee – the last body to be pulled from the rubble on Saturday.
But it was the young who suffered most – a third of the victims were under 25-years-old.
Among them was a pair of university students reported to have been found in each other’s arms.
Tsai Meng-chia and Huang Ro-hsin had been out singing karaoke to celebrate a friend’s birthday, returning to Wei-kuan just before the earthquake struck at 4am local time last Saturday, local media said.
Their fate was mentioned in a tribute by Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou.
Although the building housed only 256 registered residents, there were more than 380 there on the night of the quake.
Many had joined their families for the start of the Lunar New Year holidays. Relatives told how their families had been all but wiped out.
Survivor Lee Tsong-tian, 40, was the only one of eight family members to be pulled out alive after more than 50 hours – among the last residents to be rescued.
“Out of my family of eight, Tsong-tian was saved,” his sister Lee Su-tsu told reporters during a memorial service held for victims on Friday.
Rescuers worked for 20 hours to free Lee, whose leg was trapped in the rubble – it was later amputated.
The mother of the 10-day-old baby who died told of her last moments with the child. Liu Yi-chen, a 38-year-old nurse, was breast-feeding in bed when the floor of the room caved in.
“The baby fell nearby, I heard her cry but I couldn’t reach her,” Liu said.
“The baby cried for an hour and then there was no voice.”
Liu also lost her husband and two other young children. — AFP
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