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Taiwan Earthquake: Death Toll Rises as Survivors Pulled From Rubble

by Tim Stelloh and Kelly Cobiella /  / Updated 

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The death toll from a powerful earthquake in southern Taiwan rose to 32 on Sunday, although officials feared that more than 100 people remained trapped under a collapsed high-rise apartment building.

The 6.4-magnitude quake struck early Saturday morning, hitting the city of Tainan the hardest. A few buildings swayed and 10 collapsed, although none accounted for as many deaths as a nearly 17-story residential high-rise.

Sunday, dozens of rescue workers were frantically trying to find trapped survivors in the massive heap of debris and hoping to add to the more than 170 people who have been rescued so far. There were some successes: A baby was removed from the rubble, and so was a little girl.

But the pile of metal, rebar and concrete is so large and unstable that each rescue operation is taking emergency workers eight to 10 hours, Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te told reporters Sunday.

Anxious relatives, meanwhile, gathered nearby, hoping for good news; others were left to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

A man who escaped from the wreckage Saturday told the Associated Press that he warned his son not to buy an apartment in the nearly 30-year-old building.

"It was suspiciously cheap," he said.

Taiwan's interior minister said the building had not been identified as dangerous before the earthquake, the AP reported, although the official said there would be an investigation to examine the allegations of poor construction.

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