Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rescuers seek landslide survivors !

The rescue operation continues in Taiwan

Rescue workers in Taiwan are searching for dozens of people feared buried in a landslide triggered by Typhoon Morakot that swept into a mountain village.

The typhoon struck Taiwan on the weekend, dumping record amounts of rain and washing out roads and bridges, leaving at least 41 people dead.

A helicopter with three people on board has crashed while on a rescue mission in the south of Taiwan, officials said.

The storm also hit mainland China, where six people were reported killed.

Two died when a landslide submerged a group of houses late on Monday.

It was initially believed that the buildings were apartment blocks, with many families buried, but Chinese officials later confirmed that they were one-storey homes which had mostly been evacuated before the landslide.

Helicopters have been dropping rescuers into the village of Shiao Lin, in the mountains of southern Taiwan, and winching out residents, trapped for several days by landslides that have cut road access and buried many houses.

About 150 people who survived Sunday's landslide by reaching higher ground have now been pulled out of the area to safety.

The village is home to about 1,000 people but officials are not certain how many were there when the landslide hit.

Survivors have spoken of hundreds of people still buried in their homes.

"I was watching from my house upstairs," said one survivor, Lee Chin-long.

A Japanese woman looks at a weather chart on a computer showing Typhoon Morakot (c) moving towards China, and Tropical Storm Etau (r) moving towards Japan

"The whole mountain just fell off. When I saw that, I started to run. Almost every house was gone, except for a couple."

A helicopter with three people on board involved in a mission to rescue residents of a different mountain village, was reported to have crashed in bad weather. It was not known if there were any survivors.

Typhoon Morakot dropped some two metres (80 inches) of rain on Taiwan this weekend, causing the worst flooding in five decades.

Rivers have spilled over their banks, washing away buildings, roads and bridges, cutting power lines and flooding city streets as well as farmland. Losses to the farming industry are estimated at $152m (£92m).

After slamming Taiwan, the storm moved across the strait to China where it has weakened in force.

About 1.4 million people were evacuated from coastal areas of Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

Two people were killed in the town of Pengxi in Zhejiang when a landslide struck about seven houses late on Monday. Officials said six people were pulled alive from the rubble but two later died.

Rescuers worked through the night to pull people from the rubble in Pengxi

Four other deaths were reported in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces.

Overall, about 6,000 houses were destroyed and more than 380,000 hectares of farmland flooded, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced. The storm has caused as much as $1.3bn dollars in damage, the ministry said.

Morakot also dumped heavy rains in the north of the Philippines, killing at least 22 people last week.

In Japan, Typhoon Etau - bringing winds of up to 108km (67 miles) an hour - set off flash floods and landslides that have killed at least 12 people.

It was forecast to hit the Tokyo area on Tuesday, but turned eastward into the Pacific Ocean after dropping heavy rain.

Typhoons and tropical storms are frequent in the region between July and September.

Map

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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