Last bodies of Hualien earthquake disaster recovered

After more than 10 days of excavation and demolition of large-scale machines, the last two bodies of Chinese tourists Ding Wenchang (丁文昌) and He Fenghua (何鳯華) were finally found in a collapsed hostel that occupied the lower floors of the 12-story Yun Men Tsui Ti building on Feb. 25. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

Taipei, (CNA) The last two bodies of people killed in the magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Hualien on Feb. 6 were finally recovered Sunday from the rubble of a collapsed building that is being razed to the ground.

They were 76-year-old Ding Wenchang (丁文昌) and 75-year-old He Fenghua (何鳯華), grandparents of a Chinese family of five who were all killed in a hostel that occupied the lower floors of the 12-story Yun Men Tsui Ti building.

The two bodies, which rescuers said were lying on a bed, were later sent to a local mortuary.

The bodies of parents Yang Jie (楊捷) and Ding Shouhui (丁守慧), aged 39 and 40, and their 12-year old son Yang Haoran (楊浩然) were recovered on Feb. 10.

Lin Wen-jui (林文瑞), head of the Hualien County Fire Department, said rescue workers approached the bodies of Ding and He early Sunday when heavy machinery was used to pierce the Yun Men Tsui Ti building’s 4th floor ceiling.

Because the bodies were giving off a strong odor, sanitation workers were then called in to spray disinfectants at the site before rescue workers continued to dig into the rubble with their hands and light equipment to retrieve the bodies, Lin said.

The bodies were caught under a pillar of the structure, which ended up seriously tilting to one side after the earthquake and has been gradually dismantled and demolished over the past two weeks.

Rescue teams in Hualien ended search and rescue operations and began demolition of the building on Feb. 11, 106 hours after the earthquake, when they found they were unable to recover the bodies of Ding and He.

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake left 17 people dead and 285 injured. Fourteen of the 17 people who died in the earthquake were trapped in the Yun Men Tsui Ti building.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)