Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Death toll from Aere climbs to 30

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

A landslide killed 15 people -- including three police officers -- in a mountain village as Typhoon Aere pounded northern Taiwan with heavy rain and fierce winds, an official said yesterday. The nation's death toll climbed to 30.

The mudslide wiped out 24 homes Wednesday in Wufeng in Hsinchu County, but many residents had been evacuated before the typhoon began battering the island, county commissioner Cheng Yung-chin told reporters.

"The landslide buried all of the homes in just 10 seconds," he said.

The three policemen had helped to evacuate the village, and died after going back to urge others to leave, Cheng said.

"We told them to evacuate, but they went back to carry out their duties," he said.

Cheng and other disaster officials said 15 people died in the landslide.

Helicopters were dispatched to airlift food and water to about 800 residents trapped in Wufeng and nearby Janshih town, where roads were destroyed, officials said.

Other deaths reported yesterday included a man killed by a falling tree and another who died when a utility pole fell on him, disaster officials said. Both deaths were in Taipei County.

A Presbyterian minister died when flood waters washed away his riverside home in the central city of Taichung, disaster officials said.

According to the Cabinet's National Disaster Prevention and Protection Commission, in addition to the fatalities there were also 60 injuries, while at least 18 people remained missing.

However, the death toll could increase sharply because rescuers yesterday began to arrive in isolated villages by helicopter.

Yesterday morning, a rescue team from the National Fire Agency arrived in remote Taoshan Village in Wufeng Township, Hsinchu County, where more than 20 houses were engulfed by floods and mudflows within minutes on Wednesday.

Using advanced equipment, rescuers found several of the bodies and police officers who had been stationed at Tuchang Police Post.

Meanwhile, Premier Yu Shyi-kun and high-ranking officials of the Cabinet arrived Wufeng Township by helicopter.

"The responsibility pertaining to belated evacuation advisories will have to be shouldered by certain officials," Yu said.

According to Hsinchu County Commissioner Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金), seven of the bodies recovered have been identified. Currently, a team of 30 rescuers is continuing to search for victims and possible survivors.

"I've asked for assistance from central government. First, roads have to be repaired," Cheng said.

Yesterday afternoon, mini cranes were sent to the scene by an Air Force cargo plane to facilitate the search.

Chung Chin-liang (鍾進亮), the chief of the private Hsinchu Rescue Association, told the Taipei Times yesterday that a team of rescue personnel from the association would leave for remote Pailan at Taoshan Village to offer assistance today, if roads are repaired.

In central Taiwan, mudflows in Hoping township, Taichung County, on Wednesday led to the death of one resident and the disappearance of several villagers.

Typhoon Aere yesterday made landfall at coastal provinces of China, leaving heavy rains in central and southern parts of Taiwan. The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) yesterday morning lifted both land and sea warnings, but warned that heavy rains might be devastating in the south today.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Chaba, which was about 900km southeast to Naha in Okinawa, Japan, will probably not affect the nation's weather over the following two to three days, forecasters said.

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