The New York Times, Aug 12, 2009
BEIJING The toll from the already deadly Typhoon Morakot in the Pacific threatened to soar on Tuesday, as efforts continued to find survivors of a huge mudslide that buried a rural village in south-central Taiwan.
A rescue helicopter became a casualty of the disaster, hitting a mountainside Tuesday afternoon in Pingtung County, near the mudslide, a spokesman for the governments Central Emergency Operations Center said in a telephone interview. Television reports said the wreckage had been spotted lying in a valley. The helicopter had a crew of three.
The mudslide, set off early Sunday by more than 80 inches of typhoon-spawned rain, buried more than 100 homes in the village of Hsiao-lin, the spokesman, Wang Ching-en, said. The record rains washed out bridges and roads leading to the area, slowing rescue efforts and making any estimates of deaths speculative.
About 1,300 people are reported to live in the village, but Mr. Liang, the Fire Administration spokesman, said most were outside its core, which had been hit hardest. Still, the village was crowded with relatives returning home for Taiwans Fathers Day, which was observed on Saturday.
Helicopters ferried rescuers to the scene and carried out scores of survivors in small groups. Ground crews were still slowly making their way to the site.
In Chishan, a town some 25 miles away, where survivors were being taken, villagers described a scene of panic and confusion as the mud enveloped their homes.
We ran out of our house before the mudslide washed it away, said Chih Shi-li, 62. There were 44 of us, including distant relatives. We climbed to a hill. For one day and one night we had no rice, no water and our clothes were all wet. No one came to help us until a day later.
He added, Im very happy to be alive, but Im worried about my neighbors.
A woman awaiting word from the rescuers, Hong Li-wei, said she had not heard from her mother-in-law or teenage son since Saturday.
They are still inside. They havent come out, she said. The last time I talked to them was on Aug. 8. They said there was flooding, but later I couldnt get a hold of them. I was away, only when I came back did I find out about this. Typhoons in the past werent that bad.
Across the Taiwan Strait, in Pengxi, a mountain-ringed town in coastal China, about 270 miles southwest of Shanghai, a landslide buried seven small apartment buildings about 10:30 p.m. Monday, but most were vacant.
Rescuers pulled the bodies of two women and four survivors, one of them seriously injured, from the debris of one building. No one else was reported caught in the slide, said an official at the local government office who was reached by telephone and refused to give her name.
Typhoons have ravaged the region in recent days. Morakot killed at least eight people in China, with three still missing, and at least 41 in Taiwan and 21 in the Philippines, with dozens more unaccounted for. Typhoon Etau, which struck Japans west coast on Monday, killed 13 people and left 10 others missing, news agencies reported.
In Chinas Zhejiang Province, a weakened Morakot had moved inland, north of Shanghai, by Tuesday, leaving behind a sea of mud and city streets turned into canals in Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces along Chinas east coast. About 6,000 homes were destroyed, authorities said.
Authorities said 1.4 million people were forced to flee the storm, whose 74-mile-per-hour winds were tame by typhoon standards, but whose rains shattered records.
A rain gauge in Taishun, only about 3o miles from the Pengxi landslide, recorded four feet of rain from Aug. 6 to 10, the largest typhoon-related rainfall in Zhejiang Province in 60 years.
Reporting was contributed by Cindy Sui from Chishan, Taiwan; Jonathan Ansfield from Beijing; Hiroko Tabuchi from Tokyo; and Mark McDonald from Hong Kong. Zhang Jing contributed research from Beijing.
100 Feared Buried Alive, 62 Die In Typhoon-Hit Taiwan
CHISHAN, Taiwan (AFP) -- A mudslide engulfed a mountain village in southern Taiwan leaving 100 people feared buried alive, officials said Tuesday, as the confirmed death toll from Typhoon Morakot on the island hit 62.
The typhoon slammed into Taiwan at the weekend, dumping a record 3 meters of rain, toppling buildings and submerging whole streets before moving on to mainland China, where it caused further havoc.
The latest victims included 10 people whose bodies were uncovered near Chishan river in worst-hit Kaohsiung county, said the National Fire Agency.
Taiwan's worst flooding in half a century has left another 57 people missing, in addition to those unaccounted for in the mudslide in the remote village of Hsiaolin, the agency said.
The number of dead was expected to rise further after a UH1H helicopter carrying three rescue personnel crashed in heavy fog in southern Pingtung county, officials said.
All UHIH choppers were grounded after the accident for safety checks, the agency said,
"About 100 people may have been buried alive (in Hsiaolin)," said a statement from the agency, which coordinates search and rescue operations, after the first relief workers arrived in the village by helicopter.
Authorities downplayed reports that up to 600 people were still trapped in Hsiaolin, saying only that around half the village's 200 houses had been swamped by the mudslide.
Some 700 people were found safe in Hsiaolin and a number of nearby villages awaiting evacuation, the defense ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.
All roads and bridges into the village were cut off by landslides and the only access was by helicopter.
"My house is gone. We have been trapped for four days and we are scared," a man from Hsiaolin, in the southern county of Kaohsiung, told reporters after being airlifted to safety.
He was one of about 70 people evacuated from the village by helicopter. Another 150 residents had found safe refuge in the village, with some reluctant to leave, the fire agency said.
Dozens of anxious people scuffled with rescuers in a junior high school in Chishan when they were barred from boarding a chopper to return to Hsiaolin to search for their relatives, an AFP photographer reported.
Some 817 people had been airlifted to safety and more than 18 tons of supplies shipped to the worst-hit areas in southern Taiwan as of Tuesday, the National Fire Agency said.
Meanwhile, a 16-member tour group from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong spent some 80 minutes climbing down from Mount Ali in central Taiwan, where they were trapped during the typhoon, reports said.
The island's tourism officials said at least 60 Chinese groups have postponed their visits to the mountain.
Armored vehicles, marine landing craft and rubber dinghies were mobilized in the rescue operations, which involved more than 16,000 troops across the island, Taiwan's defense ministry said.
Typhoon Morakot has caused at least 7.2 billion Taiwan dollars ($225 million) in agricultural damage while a total of 57,000 houses were left without power and 850,000 homes without water, according to officials.
Charities and companies have launched donation drives for flood victims, raising more than two billion Taiwan dollars as of Tuesday noon, reports said. Official figures were not immediately available.
The foreign ministry said Japan would donate 10 million yen ($103,000), and that other countries had also expressed their condolences and willingness to donate aid.
Even detained former president Chen Shui-bian, who is facing corruption charges, donated one million Taiwan dollars through his office to his home county Tainan and to neighboring Kaohsiung.
Morakot is one of the worst typhoons to strike Taiwan in 50 years. In August 1959, a typhoon killed 667 people and left around 1,000.