Mon, Aug 10, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Downpour continues to pummel south

WASHED AWAY In Taitung County, stores were swept up by the Jhihben River and a hotel collapsed into the waters. Guests and staff had already been evacuated

By Meggie Lu, Shelley Shan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The collapsed Jinshuai Hotel lies in the Jhihben River in Jhihben Township, Taitung County, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Torrential rains brought by Tropical Storm Morakot, which was downgraded from a typhoon on Saturday, continued to wreak havoc in the south of the country yesterday.

As of 8pm yesterday, the Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center had confirmed seven fatalities, while another 32 were injured and 46 were missing.

A total of 6,301 people had been evacuated from their homes, the center said.

Though the center of the storm left Taiwan on Saturday, heavy rain from the rim of the system continued to cause major damage.

In eastern Taiwan, the Jinshuai Hotel in Jhihben (知本), Taitung County, collapsed into the Jhihben River just before noon after its foundations were eroded by surging floodwaters.

A report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) said the management of the hotel had begun evacuating guests on Saturday after roads leading to the town, which is popular for its hot springs, were washed away by the river.

Several stores in front of the six-story hotel were also washed away by the swollen river.

Hotel staffers were reportedly safe at another hotel nearby, while 400 visitors were trapped in Jhihben, unable to return home.

Meanwhile, the Central Weather Bureau said the rain belt had moved northward from the south to central regions. The highest accumulated rainfall from Morakot as of yesterday was in Alishan, which had received 2,654mm of rain.

The weather bureau estimated that mountainous areas in Chiayi County would receive an accumulated 2,900mm of rain, while mountains in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties would see 2,700mm of rain and Nantou and Tainan counties 2,200mm.

Rainfall on Friday and Saturday alone in Kaohsiung City and County and Pingtung County was around the annual average in those areas. Average annual rainfall in Hengchun (恆春), Pingtung County, for example, is 2,017mm.

Lin Hsiu-wen (林秀雯), deputy director of the weather bureau’s forecast center, said that while Taiwan proper would soon be out of the storm’s range, southwest seasonal winds would bring more rain to central and southern regions.

“The rain is expected to continue until tomorrow,” she said.

Taichung, Kaohsiung, Chiayi and Tainan cities and counties, as well as Pingtung, Changhua, Nantou, Yunlin and Taitung counties canceled school and work for a third consecutive day yesterday because of flooding.

The disaster emergency center said a 78-year-old man was found dead at his home in Hsinhua Township (新化), Tainan County, and a 63-year-old disabled man in Pingtung County’s Kaoshu Township (高樹) drowned after becoming trapped in his home.

A 67-year-old woman was also confirmed dead on Saturday.

Cable news channels yesterday reported two more deaths in Tainan County’s Yongkang (永康) and Tanei (大內) townships.

In Tainan City and County, running water was disconnected to 280,000 homes because the county’s Nanhua Reservoir (南化) had been contaminated as a result of the rains.

Also in Tainan County, the banks of the Tsengwen River (曾文溪) collapsed in several areas, flooding townships including Shanhua (善化), Jente (仁德), Yongkang (永康), Tanei (大內), Guantien (官田), Houbi (後壁) and Beimen (北門).

Flooding in some of the townships was three stories deep.

Morakot’s rains have also wreaked havoc on public transportation and infrastructure, with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications reporting 123 damaged sections of road as of 6pm yesterday.

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