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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Boy rescued from Taiwan rubble

International rescue teams continue their work amid fading hopes

A six-year-old boy has been rescued from earthquake debris in Taiwan, after being trapped for 87 hours.

Chang Ching-hong had been buried alive in his family's second-storey flat by Tuesday's earthquake in the central Taiwanese town of Tali.

He said he had been in the flat with his parents and two sisters, aged two and 14 months, but it was unclear whether they were still alive.

Quake in Taiwan

A South Korean rescue team worked for nine hours to reach the boy, using their bare hands to finally dig him out. They feared that bringing in machinery might unleash a torrent of concrete and other rubble, further endangering the young survivor.

Chang's uncle and aunt were called to talk to him through a wall during the rescue to keep his spirits up.

The BBC's Jill McGivering reports: "He'd been buried in the rubble for almost 90 hours"
One of the rescuers said that the boy had been buried 3m below ground after the block of flats collapsed. He had been located after the rescue team heard "a tiny, tiny voice" and began drilling small holes in the concrete to try and locate him.

The rescue team said the boy was dehydrated, but otherwise well. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance with a blindfold over his eyes to protect them from sunlight.


But despite this triumph, rescue workers were pessimistic on a further 379 people listed as missing, saying that finding any further survivors would be a "miracle".

The death toll rose from the earthquake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, now stands at 2,146, with more than 8,140 injured. <

Meanwhile, further aftershocks continued to rock and further weaken damaged buildings around the epicentre in central Taiwan.

A large tremor measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale was recorded on Thursday night, one of 60 major shockwaves and more than 5,000 in total since the quake.

China said it was still willing to send help to Taiwan, despite the latter's polite rejection of help from the mainland.

The Red Cross Society of China said it was awaiting Taiwan's permission to send three rescue teams consisting of seismologists, surgeons and nurses to Taiwain.

Arrests made

A campaign to bring manslaughter charges against builders of poorly constructed housing blocks is gathering pace.

[ image: Only a handful of survivors have emerged from the ruins since Wednesday]
Only a handful of survivors have emerged from the ruins since Wednesday
An architect and a building contractor were arrested early on Friday in connection with the deaths of 20 people killed when a 12-storey block of flats collapsed on the outskirts of Taipei during the quake, police said.

Three other architects were questioned and released after steel support bars on the first two floors snapped. The block was one of only two to come down across the northern county of Taipei.

The arrests bring to three the number of people detained on suspicion of causing death through negligence, and prosecutors have said more arrests were expected as a team of 1,000 engineers and collapse of four apartment blocks in Yunlin county in the southwest.

Initial inquiries showed the walls were filled with empty plastic bottles and metal buckets.

Three contractors in the worst affected county of Taichung, where more than 1,000 people were killed, have also been ordered not to leave the country.

[ image: Many Taiwanese have been rehoused in tents]
Many Taiwanese have been rehoused in tents
On Friday in Taiping city in Taichung county, residents held an emotional press conference to demand the government investigate the collapse of a tower block which fell on its side, killing at least 12 people.

Residents' spokesman Chouwu-hong said: "We aren't specialists, but there were vegetable oil tins found in the structure." Such tins have also been found in the wrecks of other buildings.

Government building officials have acknowledged that during a construction boom over the past decade, poor workmanship and use of cheap, weak materials on the island was common.

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