Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Twenty-three dead in wake of Morakot

RELIEF ON THE WAY Floodwaters began to recede in parts of Tainan and Pingtung counties, while soldiers tried to reach communities cut off by raging rivers

By Loa Iok-sin, Ko Shu-ling and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Residents of Xiaolin Village in Kaohsiung County’s Jiaxian Township disembark from a helicopter outside Cishan Junior High School yesterday after they were rescued from the village, which was wiped out by mudslides brought by Typhoon Morakot.

PHOTO: CNA

At least 23 people were confirmed dead, 32 injured and 56 confirmed missing in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, the Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center said yesterday.

Hundreds of others were reportedly missing in mountainous areas of southern Taiwan, while the military was trying to rescue those cut off by fallen bridges and raging rivers.

As of last night, the Presidential Office had not declared a state of emergency.

Floodwaters began to recede in parts of Tainan and Pingtung counties, but the Council of Agriculture warned the public of the risk of more mudslides as rains continued to batter mountainous areas of Nantou, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties.

The council has issued a “red” mudslide alert for 244 rivers and creeks that posed a risk for 117 villages and boroughs in 35 townships.

Authorities in the affected areas should evacuate residents if necessary, the council said.

As of yesterday, 129 roads remained blocked and 28 bridges were out, while 849,360 households were without running water and 110,345 households had no power, tallies from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior, the agriculture council and the Council of Indigenous Peoples showed.

As floodwaters receded, more than 2,000 people returned to their homes from shelters and 51 shelters were closed down, the interior ministry said.

A total of 3,720 people remained in 93 shelters across the country as of yesterday, the ministry said.

In Nantou County, the body of Liu Wen-yu (劉文裕), who was believed to have fallen into the Choshui River (濁水溪) with his car on Sunday when a highway along the riverbank collapsed, was found about 800m downstream.

Nine people are believed to have fallen into the river while driving on Provincial Highway No. 16 at around 6:50am on Sunday.

The other eight people were still missing as of press time. However, the wreckage of a Mercedes-Benz and a Ford have been found in the river.

Although the Central Weather Bureau lifted all typhoon warnings at 5:30pm yesterday, Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center director Fan Liang-hsiu said the center would continue to operate.

“At the moment, the focus of our operations is still rescuing people,” Fan said after a meeting. “Repairing public facilities and private residences should also be a priority.”

“The Ministry of National Defense, the interior ministry and all other concerned government agencies will do their best to minimize the impact of the disaster,” he said.

The Presidential Office said it would not declare a state of emergency because the devastation caused by Morakot was under control and relief efforts would be strengthened.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said declaring a state of emergency was unnecessary because the relief efforts were being coordinated under existing mechanisms. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would not call a National Security Council meeting, he said.

Wang said that the Cabinet, and not the president, was responsible for relief efforts and reconstruction, but that Ma was very concerned about the situation and in close contact with Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄).

Liu, who spent Sunday night at a Ministry of National Defense hotel in Kaohsiung City after inspecting flooded areas in Pingtung County, returned to Taipei at noon yesterday.

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