Taiwan continues hunt for survivors

Some 700 villagers found but hundreds still unaccounted for in wake of Typhoon Morakot.

    About 700 survivors made it to higher ground before mudslides destroyed their homes [Reuters]

    Despite the massive rescue operation, however, officials say up to 1,000 people remain unaccounted for.

    See also

     Typhoons: Asia's mega-storms
     In pictures: Morakot's destructive path
     In video: Thousands missing in Taiwan typhoon
     Typhoon Morakot hits southern China

    Al Jazeera's Steve Chao, reporting from the heart of rescue efforts in southern Taiwan, said with the only road into several remote villages still washed out, medical teams were still being forced to wait to get to the disaster zone.

    Engineers involved in trying to clear away mud and debris said it might take days to clear a path for rescue teams to get in.

    The government has confirmed 63 deaths from the disaster so far and the military has flown more than 100 helicopter trips to ferry out survivors, a few at a time, but the process is painfully slow and dangerous.

    Rescue helicopter crashes

    Highlighting that danger on Tuesday, three rescue workers were feared dead after their helicopter, which had been delivering food and rescuing villagers, crashed into a mountain near Wutai in Pingtung county in heavy fog.

    In the village of Hsiao Lin, soldiers touched down to a scene of utter devastation.

    Huang Yi-bin, the deputy minister of Taiwan defence, said the "entire village is buried" by mud.

    Two hundred homes and hundreds of people are feared to have been buried after torrential rains caused a massive mudslide to cover the village.

    Villagers were taken by surprise by the typhoon's arrival as it had been forecast to head north, but instead turned south to unprepared areas, our correspondent said.

    One Hsiao Lin survivor said from a temporary shelter in a neighbouring town that "the mountain just collapsed on us".

    "I live lower down and survived, but all my relatives were buried," he said.

    Frustration

    Survivors' fear, grief and frustration are beginning to boil over, with villagers expressing their anger and surrounding Liu Chao-shiuan, Taiwan's prime minister, when he visited a village in central Taiwan on Tuesday.

    Mudslides are feared to have buried hundreds of people in remote mountain villages [EPA]
    Some of those who had been rescued from the devastated south tussled with police at a rescue centre at Cishan Junior High School in Kaohsiung county, demanding to be allowed to return to their villages to help family members who were still trapped.

    Morakot, which had earlier killed at least 21 people in the Philippines, triggered the worst flooding in Taiwan in 50 years over the weekend before moving on to China.

    It later weakened to a tropical storm but still wreaked havoc on China's southeastern coast, triggering a massive landslide in Zhejiang province that toppled six apartment buildings and buried an unknown number of residents late on Monday.

    China's state-run Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday that the landslide in Pengxi town destroyed six four-storey buildings at the foot of a mountain at 10:30pm local time on Monday.

    Six survivors were pulled out - one in critical condition - but rescuers did not yet know how many people were buried under the rubble and search operations were hampered by the amount of mud and rock.

    The storm also sparked the evacuation of about 1.4 million people from Zhejiang and neighbouring coastal province Fujian, Chinese authorities said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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