'We don't want to give up'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 1999, 12:00am

Fengyuan, 50km from the epicentre of the quake, resembled a war-torn city yesterday.

Yongchao Mansion - a 12-storey private apartment building - lay on its side. Toppled early on Tuesday, it crashed into a pair of two-storey neighbouring buildings, killing at least four couples inside.

The mansion's first and second floors had disappeared. Only the top four or five floors barely resembled a building. The remainder had been turned into debris, burying the occupants.

A man who ran a convenience store opposite said it was sheer luck he was not among the victims.

'I was watching television . . . The earthquake happened suddenly and the television fell on me.

'I was so scared that I just crawled to a corner and stayed there until the shaking stopped.' He said it was horrifying to see Yongchao Mansion collapse. 'It turned over and collapsed bit by bit.' A giant crane towered over the rubble yesterday, waiting to swing into action.

Rescuers pulled out 75 bodies and were searching for a further 18 people.

But Ke Chin-fu, leader of the firefighting squad, said he was reluctant to use the crane to remove rubble.

'We used it this morning. But we don't want to give up on finding any survivors,'he said.

'Chances for survival are very slim now. All those we found this afternoon did not make it.' Despite the low odds, Mr Ke said 600 soldiers and 200 firefighters would continue the search.