TAINAN: Nurse Liu Yi-chen was breast-feeding her 10-day old baby when her family’s home in Taiwan was turned upside-down by a devastating earthquake that robbed her of her infant and husband.
Liu, 38, was rescued from the rubble of the felled Wei-kuan apartment complex in the southern city of Tainan soon after the quake.
Her two other young children remain missing, among more than 100 residents still buried in the rubble.
She tearfully told AFP of her terror and loss as she recovered in hospital, praying for good news.
“I was lying in bed breastfeeding and felt the bed shaking. My husband said to me something must be wrong and then the floor caved in and we started to fall,” said Liu, whose injuries include broken ribs and a fractured shoulder, leg and spine.
“When we fell he held us tight and I fell on his chest… My husband made some space for us. The baby fell nearby, I heard her cry but I couldn’t reach her.”
Liu said they plunged several stories from the ninth floor of the 16-story block and her legs were pinned down by bricks.
“I was talking to my husband and told him we have to get out together. He replied ‘I love you wife. You stay well’ and I said ‘What are you talking about? We’ll stay well together’ and then the talking stopped,” said Liu.
“The baby cried for an hour and then there was no voice,” she said.
Liu called out to rescuers who found the family and drilled into the rubble to get them out. She begged them to take out the baby girl — named Kang Chiao-ting — first, only discovering that night that she had died.
Rescuers then pulled her husband’s body from the rubble.
The apartment complex was felled by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Saturday, the only high-rise in the city to collapse.
Questions are now being asked over how safe the building was after it emerged residents had complained about cracks in the walls and images of the rubble showed tin cans and foam had been used inside concrete pillars.
Liu said she had bought the house in 2005.
“There were cracks in the walls after earthquakes, but other buildings had that too and I didn’t think about structural problems,” she said.
Liu added her first mortgage application for the apartment was rejected on the grounds that the builder had some debt disputes with the bank, but was later approved.
Local media reported that the construction company behind the building had gone bankrupt. Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the collapse. But for Liu her only concern is the fate of her two trapped children.
“I was lucky I was among the first to be found but I lost my baby,” she told AFP, saying that she was now just “hoping for miracles”.