Sat, May 17, 2008 - Page 1 News List

TAA identifies missing coach site

GESTURE To avoid sparking controversy, members of a Taiwanese rescue team removed the national flag from their uniforms before leaving for Sichuan Province

By Shelley Shan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Taiwan Travel Agents Association (TAA) yesterday said that it had identified the site in Sichuan Province, China, where 14 missing Taiwanese tourists were located before Monday’s massive earthquake struck.

TAA chairman Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光) said the last recorded signal from their global positioning system (GPS) showed that the bus was located at E103.547651 longitude and N31.456053 latitude, about 4km south of the quake’s epicenter in Wenchuan.

Yao said the specified area was at an altitude of 2,760m. He also said that the information has been relayed to rescue teams.

Meanwhile, CTI cable news channel reported last night that the GPS coordinates related to a section of road that had been damaged by a landslide.

“They [the rescue team] have promised that they will send a helicopter to rescue the tourists once they find them,” he said.

The association has dispatched three representatives to Sichuan to assist Taiwanese tourists in returning home. Yao said the taskforce will stay in China until all the tourists have returned.

The group’s itinerary showed that they had just finished lunch in Maoshien before heading south to Wenchuan.

Meanwhile, four more humanitarian charter flights were due to leave for Chongqing and Chengdu yesterday.

Mandarin Airlines provided a charter flight which left Taipei at 3pm to carry a Red Cross rescue team to Chengdu.

The aircraft was also going to bring back 93 tourists and was scheduled to return to Taipei at approximately 11pm last night.

In order to avoid sparking a political dispute, team members took the national flag badge off their uniforms before leaving for China.

“The [national flag] issue should not be the main concern here. Our mission is to go there and save people, and [taking off the badge] shows our respect and understanding to the other side at the time of such a disaster,” team leader Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) said.

A TransAsia Airways flight also left yesterday at 3pm. The plane was scheduled to return from Chongqing at 11:15pm yesterday.

Two other flights offered by EVA Air and China Airlines took off from Taipei yesterday evening.

They were scheduled to return from Chongqing to Taipei early this morning.

Billy Chang (張國政), director general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), said that all the expenses involved in arranging the charter flights would be paid by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

“Passengers on the charter flights will not be charged,” he said, adding that domestic carriers only charged the government the operational costs of the charter flights.

As of yesterday, the Veteran Affairs Commission was still trying to establish contact with 104 veterans living in Sichuan. So far, only 167 veterans have been located.

Additional reporting by Jenny W. Hsu

Also See: China quake hard on 921 victims, psychiatrists say

Also See: Foreign rescuers reach Sichuan

Also See: China tallies quake's cost to businesses

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