Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TAIWAN MUDSLIDE SURVIVORS FOUND !

Rescuers reach Taiwan village

About 700 people missing in southern Taiwan after Typhoon Morakot have been found alive, army officials say.

People from several villages are said to have made it to higher ground before mud and rock engulfed their homes.

Among the survivors found by rescue teams are 200 from Hsiaolin village, reports the Taiwan Central News Agency.

However, despite frantic rescue efforts in Hsiaolin and elsewhere since the weekend, hundreds of people are still missing, feared buried under the mud.

Military helicopters have been ferrying villagers out of communities cut off by the storms and floods after roads and bridges were washed away.

"We have found around 700 people alive in three villages last night and 26 more this morning. We are deploying 25 helicopters to evacuate them," said Maj Gen Richard Hu, a senior official in the rescue effort.

The typhoon struck Taiwan at the weekend, killing at least 60 people and causing the worst flooding in 50 years.

The BBC's Cindy Sui at Chishan in rural southern Taiwan, the centre of the rescue effort, says the authorities fear that hundreds more people could still be trapped.

A statue of Buddha’s head submerged in flood waters and debris from Typhoon Morakot in southern Taiwan on 11 August 2009

In Hsiaolin alone, rescue workers said about 100 were unaccounted for as of Tuesday and thought possibly to have been buried alive.

Our correspondent says family members from surrounding areas have been converging on Hsiaolin, demanding that helicopters be sent to their villages too. Some are carrying signs that read, "Save my village".

The search for survivors has been a slow process as the only way in and out of the villages is by helicopter, our correspondent adds.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead, also at the Chishan rescue base, says a high school playing field has become a landing pad for helicopters, and ambulances are lining the running track to ferry the injured to hospital.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is expected to visit the area soon to inspect the scale of the devastation and the rescue effort.

Morakot lashed Taiwan with at least two metres (80in) of rain over the weekend, catching the authorities off guard in a region used to typhoons.

Typhoon Morakot has caused at least $225m (£135m) in agricultural damage, while nearly 30,000 houses are still without power and 750,000 homes without water, according to the latest estimates from officials.

The storm also hit mainland China, where about 1.4 million people were evacuated from coastal areas, eight people died in flooding and up to 10,000 homes were destroyed.

In the town of Pengxi in China's eastern province of Zhejiang, a landslide toppled seven older houses, reportedly killing two people.

Meanwhile in Japan, another seasonal storm, Typhoon Etau, caused floods and landslides that have killed at least 15 people since the weekend and left a dozen missing.

About 1,000 people spent Tuesday night in shelters and 4,600 households were without water, officials said.

Map

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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