At least four people, including an 8-year-old girl, were rescued Monday from a high-rise Taiwanese apartment building toppled by a powerful quake two days earlier, as frustration grew among families waiting for searchers to reach their buried loved ones.
More than 100 people are believed to still be under the debris in a disaster that struck during the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar — the Lunar New Year.
Saturday's quake killed at least 38 people in Tainan city in southern Taiwan, all but two of them in the collapse of the 17-storey Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building. Even though the 6.4-magnitude quake was shallow, few buildings were reported to have been damaged, which experts said was because Taiwan's building standards are high.
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The official death toll from the quake rose to 38, with more than 100 people missing.
The girl, named as Lin Su-Chin, was conscious after being trapped for more than 61 hours. She had been taken to hospital, Taiwan television stations said. Her aunt, 28-year-old Chen Mei-jih, was rescued from the building's fifth floor shortly after.
Mayor Lai Ching-Te told reporters he briefly exchanged words 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," he said. "I asked her if there's anything wrong with her body. She shook her head."
Teams also rescued on Monday a 42-year-old man from the building.
The quake struck at about 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Chang Chun-jung, 28, was asleep on the 10th floor of the Golden Dragon Building when the quake struck. He said he didn't have time to call out to his mother, who was sleeping in the same room.
"I opened my eyes, there were a few shakes and then everything collapsed," he told Reuters from his hospital bed.
Once the shaking stopped, he checked that his mother was still alive and reached out in the dark to feel what was around him. He and mother had a pocket of space but were pressed down by heavy debris on top of them.
"I spoke with my mother to tell her to save her breath, to allow air to circulate," he said. "My mother had trouble breathing."
Fortunately, his and his mother's feet were sticking out of the rubble so they could be seen from outside.
Elder brother Chun-po, 29, who had been sleeping in another room. He was able to dig himself out with his hands, but rescuers weren't able to see him. He took a pole and started to wave it around above him and get the attention of the rescuers, who lowered a ladder to get him out.
They weren't able to emerge from the rubble until several hours after the quake hit.
Families of those missing anxious for news
Family members of the missing flooded into the information centre in search of their loved ones or to wait anxiously.
Tensions rose 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 daughter-in-law and two 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 were said to have heard the sound of a child.
Her son, surnamed Wu, got out of the building soon after the quake, but his wife and their 4-year-old girl remained trapped, according to volunteers assisting the family.
'Third stage' of rescue effort
Lai said during a visit to a funeral home that rescue efforts had entered what he called the "third stage".
"There are more fatalities than those pulled out [alive], and the number of fatalities will probably exceed 100," Lai told reporters.
Rescuers continued to scramble over the twisted wreckage of the building as numbed family members stood around, waiting for news of missing relatives.
Building quality questioned
Taiwan's government said in a statement 36 of the 38 dead were from the Wei-guan building, which was built in 1994.
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who won election last month, said there needed to be a "general sorting out" of old buildings to make sure they were able to cope with disasters like earthquakes.
"There needs to be a continued strengthening of their ability to deal with disasters," she said.
Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou, speaking to reporters at a Tainan hospital, said the government needed to do a better job in ensuring building quality.
"In the near future, regarding building management, we will have some further improvements. We will definitely do this work well," Ma said.
Witnesses at the scene of the collapse sold Reuters they saw large rectangular, commercial cans of cooking-oil packed inside wall cavities exposed by the damage, apparently having been used as building material.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also conveyed condolences to the victims, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Sunday, and repeated Beijing's offer to provide help. China views self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary.