Rescuers search Taiwan village after Typhoon Morakot
CISHAN, Taiwan |
CISHAN, Taiwan (Reuters) - Helicopters dropped rescuers into a village in southern Taiwan Tuesday to search for victims of a mudslide that may have buried up to 600 people after a typhoon hit the island, officials said.
The death toll since Typhoon Morakot and tropic storm Etau cut a swathe through the region climbed to more than 90, including 50 in Taiwan. Media reports said another three were killed aboard a helicopter that crashed on a rescue mission.
Heavy rain in China toppled more than 10,000 dwellings.
With roads cut by mudslides and surging waters, helicopters provided the only means of getting to missing residents of Hsiao Lin village in southern Taiwan's mountainous Kaohsiung county.
Survivor Lee Chin-long, 50, said he watched as walls of mud and rock wiped out most of the village, home to 1,000 people.
"I was watching from my house upstairs. The whole mountain just fell off. When I saw that, I started to run," said Lee, speaking from a shelter in the nearby town of Cishan, the hub of rescue operations.
"Almost every house was gone, except for a couple."
Military officers running operations said helicopter missions had found very few survivors though Taiwan's disaster agency said about 100 villagers had been rescued. About 600 people remained unaccounted for and presumed buried.
"There are definitely some people buried there but we don't know how many," said Hu Jui-chou, an army major-general. "We need to look at that more carefully."
He said other residents might still be stuck near the village with possibly 100 taking refuge in a tunnel.
LANDSLIDES, FLOODING ACROSS TAIWAN
Torrential rain set off landslides across Taiwan, causing rivers to burst their banks and flooding farmland. A six-storey hotel was washed away as were many homes.
"We saw an entire hotspring area being wiped out and vehicles buried," said Wu Chao-neng, 52, as he got off a helicopter in Cishan after being rescued from a landslide in another village.
Victims arriving at a school in Cishan, some unconscious and on stretchers, were put in ambulances to be taken to hospitals.
Morakot left 23 dead in the Philippines and eight in China. Thirteen people have died in Japan from the effects of Etau. The storms have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
The typhoon has started to weaken over China's coastal regions after battering Taiwan. It caused floods in Taiwan's densely-populated south and farm-related losses on the island were estimated at more than T$7 billion (129.3 million pounds).
Taiwan financial firm SinoPac Holdings said the typhoon would likely widen by 0.5 percentage points the island's GDP contraction in the third quarter.
In China, rains caused damage estimated at 9.7 billion yuan (861 million pounds), state media said. The finance ministry offered 102 million yuan ($15 million) in emergency aid to two provinces.
In Japan, Etau approached the island's central area and Tokyo, hours after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake tossed food and bottles from store shelves, disrupted transport and shut down a nuclear power plant for safety checks.
Japan's weather agency warned of possible landslides and flooding, as the quake followed heavy rain. TV pictures showed one motorway partially washed out.
In addition to the 13 dead in Japan, 15 residents were reported missing in the western prefectures of Hyogo and Okayama.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Chisa Fujioka in Tokyo and Rosemarie Francisco in Manila; Writing by Lee Chyen Yee, editing by Ron Popeski)
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