TAINAN, Taiwan (AP) — After propping himself against a wall for 20 hours to avoid smothering his girlfriend, Ko Ching-chung’s strength was draining away.
The young couple had been trapped in Saturday’s pre-dawn collapse of the Weiguan Golden Dragon apartment complex in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan following a strong earthquake. Outside, rescuers were frantically searching for survivors amid the smashed concrete and twisted iron.
“Toward the end, to tell you the truth, I had already given up,” Ko told Taiwanese broadcaster FTV from his hospital bed on Monday, a day after he and his girlfriend were rescued.
“I had no strength left to hold myself up anymore. My body fell on top of her. She would have soon not been able to breathe. I said to her I had to lay on top of her, and she said to me it’s OK.”
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Soon after, rescuers heard her voice and pulled the pair from the rubble, placing them among the more than 300 people who survived the tragedy that had claimed at least 40 lives by Tuesday. More than 100 people remain unaccounted for more than three days after the collapse.
Ko said his main desire following his rescue was to reunite with his loved ones, especially his mother, who had waited anxiously at the scene.
His mother, whose name wasn’t given, said she shuddered when rescuers told her they could make out only a female voice.
“It was very difficult and horrible. But they continued digging, then they heard his voice,” she said. “At that moment, I felt thankful to the gods in heaven and earth and all the blessings that people gave to us.”
Also among the survivors was 8-year-old Lin Su-chin, who was rescued on Monday along with her 28-year-old aunt, Chen Mei-jih. On Tuesday, Lin had recovered enough after her 61-hour ordeal to speak a few words to her father and grandparents, mainly to express her wish for her favorite snacks.
“I want to eat gelatin, ice cream — I want to eat so many things,” Lin said.