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Rescuers brave aftershocks to pull bodies from tilting Taiwan tower

Rescuers brave aftershocks to pull  bodies from tilting Taiwan tower


AFP
Hualien
TAIWANESE rescuers on Thursday braved aftershocks coursing through a dangerously leaning apartment block that was partially toppled by a deadly earthquake, as their search for survivors uncovered three more bodies.
At least 10 people have now been confirmed killed by the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck the popular eastern tourist city of Hualien on Tuesday -- five locals, four Chinese mainland nationals and a woman from the Philippines.
But authorities dramatically slashed the number of missing from more than 60 people to seven by Thursday evening -- five Chinese mainland nationals and a Canadian-Chinese couple.
The powerful tremor left a handful of buildings badly damaged -- some of them leaning at precarious angles -- as well as roads torn up and hundreds forced to shelter in local schools and a stadium.
The major focus for emergency responders remained the Yun Tsui apartment block which also housed the Beauty Stay Hotel on its lower floors. Seven of the dead perished in that building and the remaining missing are believed to be hotel guests there.
The lower floors of the 12-storey tower pancaked, leaving the structure leaning at a fifty-degree angle and sparking fears of an imminent collapse.
Despite those risks rescuers kept going into the building in a desperate search for survivors. But Thursday's search only recovered three bodies -- a Chinese mainland tourist, a local hotel worker and the Filipina.
Strong aftershocks continued to strike, sending the teams scurrying from the building, only for them to return a little later and resume their grim task.
An emergency responder surnamed Lin said it took 14 hours to free the body of the hotel worker, who was partially trapped between the hotel's ceiling and floor.
"We saw his hair and were digging for some time,"he told AFP.
All the while they could hear the victim's mobile phone ringing, he added. The man was later brought out in a white body bag.
A Red Cross worker at the scene estimated that the building had tilted another five percent overnight, adding he had little hope of survivors being found on its lowest floors.
"Floors one to three are all compressed so it's hard to tell whether there are people,"he told AFP, requesting anonymity. He said that there was no risk of a gas explosion in the building but the aftershocks and further slippage remained a persistent danger.
Hualien is one of Taiwan's most popular tourist destinations as it lies on the picturesque east coast rail line and near the popular Taroko Gorge.

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