TAINAN, Taiwan – Three Taiwanese construction company executives were detained on charges of professional negligence resulting in death following the collapse of an apartment building that killed dozens, prosecutors said Wednesday.
While no more survivors have been found since Monday night, a 7-year-old white Maltese dog was pulled from the rubble after being trapped since the building collapsed early Saturday during a magnitude-6.4 earthquake.
The dog named “Le Le,” or “Happy” in English, appeared to be in shock and deep distress as it waited to be claimed at a temporary shelter. Le Le’s owner, 50-year-old Lin Shiu-chu, had been rescued earlier and hospitalized with broken arms and fractured ribs.
Lin’s cousin, who arrived with Lin’s sister to pick up the dog, thanked rescuers “for saving all lives.”
“Dogs’ lives also need to be cherished,” said Lin Chia-yu, 23.
The death toll from the quake in the southern city of Tainan stood at 46 on Wednesday, with all but two of the deaths coming in the building collapse. Another 94 people, including 21 children, are still believed trapped in the debris, the Tainan city government said.
The city’s district prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that Lin Ming-hui and architects Chang Kui-an and Cheng Chin-kui were being held on suspicion of having overseen shoddy construction of the 17-story Weiguan Golden Dragon building, which crashed onto its side in the earthquake.
The statement said the three were detained to prevent collusion or other acts that could disrupt the investigation. Among the accusations was that only half as many fasteners had been used in the supporting columns as required.
Broadcaster FTV and other Taiwanese media said Lin had changed his name after a previous bankruptcy and had run multiple property development companies in Tainan in an apparent attempt to avoid creditors and bilked clients.
Although the shallow quake was potentially devastating, few buildings were damaged as a result of strict construction standards in force in Taiwan, an island frequently struck by quakes. The Weiguan Golden Dragon building, built in 1989, was the only major structure to collapse.
Most of the 320 people who were rescued from the disaster were saved in the hours immediately after the quake, in which the building’s foundation and lower floors gave way before it toppled onto its side.
Most earthquakes in Taiwan are minor and cause little or no damage, but a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people. More stringent building standards were introduced following that disaster and appear to have been tightly enforced.
The quake struck during the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year. Celebrations of the holiday in Taiwan have been subdued.