Tainan govt deploys excavators after signs of life detected

Tainan govt deploys excavators after signs of life detected
Rescue workers use an excavator to dig a ditch to enable them to search under the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan early on February 9, 2016.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Excavating machines resumed digging through the debris of the collapsed Weiguan apartment complex in Tainan on Tuesday morning, following a pause the previous night after three signs of life were detected, said Tainan Mayor William Lai at a press briefing.

The Tainan City Government rolled out 19 excavators on Monday evening amid outcry from family members of the missing, who expressed concern that the machines would harm their trapped loved ones.

"No digging before 72 hours," family members shouted in protest. Rescuers have warned of a diminishing chance of finding survivors after a "72-hour golden period."

At present, more than a hundred people are feared to be still buried in the collapsed building.

The residential tower was toppled by a magnitude 6.4 quake that struck Taiwan at around 4 a.m. Saturday, only two days ahead of the Lunar New Year.

"Bringing out excavators is basically declaring they are giving up," said one family member.

Lai said they had made the decision because rescuers have not been making any progress with their current equipment.

"We have not given up on rescuing survivors," said Lai, stating that the choice to send excavators was also a rescue strategy and that digging would be halted immediately when potential signs of life arise.

It would take rescuers nearly 11 hours to dig down one meter if they dug manually, and excavators would help open up pathways for rescue officers, remarked Lai.

Tainan City Deputy Mayor Cheng Shu-cheng and President of the Tainan Professional Civil Engineers Association Cheng Ming-chang met with family members of the missing at the rescue information centre on site, saying bulldozers remove the building by "smashing, crushing and digging," but excavators are different. They stressed the excavators would help relieve the building of excess weight through "biting, snatching and peeling," reported local media.

Weiguan Developers Arrested

Police have arrested developers of the collapsed building, the Tainan City Government announced Tuesday afternoon.

The developer Lin Ming-hui and two of his associates from the Weiguan Construction Company, the firm used to build the residential complex, were arrested late Monday night, said officials. They were brought in on suspicion that they bore responsibility regarding the collapse, and that they were colluding with one another to provide false testimonies.

The firm changed its name after shutting down its business operations, said prosecutors.

The 16-story apartment complex collapse has so far resulted in the deaths of 39 people and hundreds of injuries.

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