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Military Rescues 1,000 Taiwanese from Typhoon Flooding

Taiwan president says typhoon has killed about 500


The Associated Press, Aug 14, 2009

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Floods and mudslides unleashed by Typhoon Morakot last weekend have killed about 500 people on the island, Taiwan's president said Friday as he called on rescue crews to step up their efforts.

Morakot destroyed the homes of 7,000 people and caused agricultural and property damage in excess of 50 billion New Taiwan dollars ($1.5 billion), President Ma Ying-jeou said at a national security conference, the first called since he took office 15 months ago.

He called it the most severe damage to the island in more than 50 years.

"While the rescue operation is still going on, we have started rehabilitation and reconstruction work, which is just as pressing as relief efforts but might be even more difficult and cumbersome," Ma said.

Morakot dumped more than 80 inches (2 meters) of rain on the island last weekend and stranded thousands in villages in the mountainous south. A total of 15,400 villagers have been ferried to safety, and rescuers are working to save another 1,900 people still stuck.

Ma said the death toll includes 120 confirmed deaths, and about 380 people believed to be buried in the debris of a landslide in Shiao Lin, the hardest-hit village.

The military finally opened a road to Shiao Lin on Friday, but authorities have given up hope of finding anyone alive under the tons of mud that now cover the village, Kaohsiung county chief Yang Chiu-hsing said. Instead of digging into some 170 mud-buried homes, a memorial park will be built on the site, he told reporters.

Another six victims were from the village of Sinfa where a torrent of water cascaded down a steep mountain facade, turning homes on the village's eastern fringe into piles of rubble and debris.

"They were there one day, and now they are gone," said neighbor Ban Bi-hsia.

Elsewhere in the village, streets were covered in mud and roads had buckled and collapsed amid days of torrential rains.

Residents have set about the huge task of rebuilding with the help of the army, a company of which was camped out at the local primary school.

As public complaints about the slow rescue work increase, the government said its operations have been hampered because many areas of the country were cut off when roads and bridges had collapsed.

Rescuers have relied on helicopters to reach the worst-hit areas, and on Thursday authorities requested larger choppers from foreign governments capable of carrying earth-moving equipment and shelters.

Many villagers have conducted their own rescue operations. More than 20,000 troops have joined civilian workers on rescue, cleanup and rehabilitation work, officials said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Military: 1,000 rescued after Taiwan storm


Heavy rains wreak havoc on rescue effort in wake of Typhoon Morakot


The Associated Press, Aug 12, 2009


CISHAN, Taiwan - Rescuers have found nearly 1,000 people alive in the area around three remote villages devastated by Typhoon Morakot, which pummeled the island over the weekend, Taiwan's military said Wednesday.


Most of the survivors were found Tuesday, but relief operations spokesman Major General Hu Jui-chou said a few dozen more were spotted Wednesday in Shiao Lin, the tiny community destroyed by a catastrophic mudslide early Sunday morning.


Hu told reporters 500 survivors had been found in Min Tzu, 200 from Chin He, and 270 from Shiao Lin.


Army helicopters were ferrying survivors to safety in Cishan, the hardscrabble town in the southern county of Kaohsiung that is serving as a focal point for relief operations.


However, heavy rains were wreaking havoc with rescue operations and by early afternoon only a few dozen flights had arrived at the makeshift landing zone on the ground of Cishan Junior High School. That compared to more than 100 on Tuesday.


Morakot, which means "emerald" in the Thai language, struck the Philippines, Taiwan and China and left at least 93 people dead, most of them in Taiwan. It dumped as much as 80 inches of rain on the island before moving on to China, where authorities evacuated 1.5 million people and some 10,000 homes were destroyed.


A major concern for relief officials remained Shiao Lin, cut off from the outside world since Sunday's mudslides.


Video taken by TV station ETTV showed the village buried in tons of mud and rubbles, with only two of its structures left standing. The only sign of life in the village, the ETTV video showed, was a sodden cat hiding in a crack under the rubble.


Luo Shun-chi, 36, who escaped from Shiao Lin shortly after Sunday's mudslide, told The Associated Press that he did not know how many of his fellow villagers remained alive.


He said that between 500 and 600 people were in Shiao Lin at the time of the disaster  far fewer than the 1,300 people listed in Taiwan's population registry.


'The place is finished'


Taiwan's National Fire Agency has said 100 people were under the mud in Shiao Lin, but didn't offer any evidence to back up that claim.

Luo said that whatever the Shiao Lin death toll, he was never going back.


"The place is finished," he said. "There is no way I could return."

The official death toll from Morakot stands at 63 in Taiwan, while authorities say another 61 are missing. That figure is mostly people killed from flooding and does not include residents of Shiao Lin and its surroundings.


Outside of Taiwan, Morakot also claimed 22 lives in the Philippines. After pummeling Taiwan, Morakot slammed into China's Fujian province, bringing heavy rain and winds of 74 miles per hour, according to the China Meteorological Administration.


Authorities ordered 1.5 million people to leave the area, sending them to schools, government offices, hospitals and the homes of relatives, where they will remain until the rain stops and waters recede, the Civil Affairs Ministry has said.


Morakot damaged or destroyed more than 10,000 homes and flooded over 1 million acres of cropland, the ministry said. It said direct economic losses have been estimated at 9.7 billion yuan ($1.4 billion).


The heavy rains triggered a massive landslide in Pengxi, a town in Wenzhou city of eastern China's Zhejiang province, destroying seven three-story apartment buildings at the foot of a mountain late Monday, an official surnamed Chen from the Pengxi government told The Associated Press.


Xinhua reported that an unknown number of residents were buried in the landslide, though Chen put the number at six. All were pulled out alive but two later died of their injuries, he said.


A separate storm, Typhoon Etau, moved away from Japan's eastern coast Wednesday after killing at least 18 people and leaving nine others missing, officials said.


Most were swept away by rain-swollen rivers or killed in landslides and floods, police said.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved