| 6.2°C Dublin

Family survives 13th-floor fall as apartment block topples like a tree

When their 13th-floor apartment began to shake, Alberto Rozas pulled his seven-year-old daughter into the bathroom doorway and waited for it to stop.

Instead, they fell.

Plummeting as their new apartment building toppled like a felled tree, they hugged each other all the way down.

Rozas had no idea which way was up until he looked through his apartment's shattered window and spotted light -- "the light of the full moon".

Rozas and his daughter, Fernanda, clambered up and to safety with nothing more than a few cuts, scrapes and bruises.

"The earthquake and the fall were one single, horrible thing," Rozas said. "I held on to her and she never let me go."

Rozas' neighbours who lived on the other side of the hall found themselves trapped beneath the structure, while rescuers painstakingly used electric saws and a generator-powered hammer to cut into the concrete.

"We don't have any listening devices or cameras," said Ian Argo, a firefighter commander.

By yesterday, 23 people had been pulled alive from the 15-story Rio Alta building and seven bodies had been removed.

An estimated 60 people remained trapped inside.

Socovil, the company that opened the concrete-and-glass structure last June, issued a statement saying it had complied with all building codes.


But many residents were angry.

"The construction was obviously poor," Rozas said.

On the second floor, Maribel Alarcon and her husband Gunther rushed to comfort their two-year-old son Oliver when he started crying.

Their concern was their salvation -- Oliver's bedroom was the only place spared in their apartment.

"We prayed a lot," Mr Alarcon said.

"And if God let us survive, that was because someone was going to rescue us."