Boy saved from Taiwan rubble after 88 hours

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The Independent Online
ON A NATIONAL holiday called the Mid-Autumn Festival, which should have been dedicated to the gathering of families, the eating of mooncakes and to the pondering of the Moon itself after the fall of darkness, the people of Taiwan instead found themselves grappling still with the tragedy of Tuesday's earthquake. The grief was lessened only by the rescue of a small boy after 88 hours of entombment.

The first cries of Chang Ching-hung, six, were heard early yesterday by a South Korean rescue team sifting the rubble of a house in Tali, a suburb of Taichung. What followed was a day-long drama, relayed to a gripped population by live TV, as the team scrabbled with bare hands to uncover him. Extricated late in the afternoon, he was taken to hospital, suffering from shock and dehydration.

"It's very dark in here," the boy said at one point from beneath the concrete. "I need water. Why am I here?"

As soon as word of the boy's discovery reached Taipei, President Lee Teng-hui flew to Tali to encourage the rescue effort. The government has been criticised for reacting too slowly to the quake. The flag on Mr Lee's palace was not flown at half mast until Thursday. The boy's rescue revived hopes that more survivors might yet be found, although hopes must be slim.

There has been no easing of tensions between Taiwan and China since the earthquake. Taipei yesterday accused Peking of demanding that foreign countries consult it before sending assistance to the island, which it considers part of China. Such action, said the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Jason Hu, "will be condemned and regarded with shame by members of the international community".

Last night, the death toll from the earthquake stood at 2,151 people, with a further 8,140 wounded. Officially, 311 people remained buried, although aid workers suggested that the true number was hard to estimate and could be far higher.

t Typhoon Bart was heading towards northern Japan yesterday after unleashing savage rains and winds in other areas that left at least 26 people dead and 458 people injured. Bart was travelingnortheastward at a 65kph (40mph), and was expected to hit the island of Hokkaido early today, the Meteorological Agency said