Fri, Aug 14, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Patience running out in clean-up effort

STRANDED More than 10,000 people are still trapped in isolated townships around the nation, running out of food and water, while hundreds are feared dead

By Loa Iok-sin and Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH AGENCIES

A resident of Nantou County’s Sinyi Township yesterday stands by what remains of a road that was flushed away in a landslide caused by the torrential rains brought by Typhoon Morakot.

PHOTO: CNA

Pressure mounted on the government yesterday to speed up operations as patience ran thin among relatives waiting for news of the thousands of residents trapped by mudslides, collapsed bridges or raging rivers in remote mountainous villages — with some feared buried alive — in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot.

Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) said yesterday that about 300 people in Xiaolin Village (小林) in Jiasian Township (甲仙) were feared dead.

Xiaolin was one of the areas hardest hit by the flooding and landslides brought by Morakot.

The village was almost completely flattened by landslides — of 395 houses, only two remain.

Although more than 200 Xiaolin villagers have been rescued in the past two days, Yang said yesterday afternoon that the county government feared the worst.

As the county government compared the number of rescued Xiaolin villagers and those who are confirmed to be alive but are awaiting rescue to the number of people living in Xiaolin, Yang said: “I’d say the number of people unaccounted for was probably somewhere around 300.”

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people in Taoyuan Township (桃源) and 1,500 in Namasiya Township (那瑪夏) are believed to be trapped.

“Everybody is paying attention to Xiaolin Village and Namasiya Township, and nobody cares about the thousands of people trapped in Taoyuan Township. There is a reservoir of water that was caused by a landslide that has dammed a river upstream. I don’t know if it has eroded away yet,” a Taoyuan Township resident said in tears. “I only hope that it will stop raining.”

What the survivor was worrying about did happen — a landslide that had dammed the upstream section of the Laonong River (荖濃溪) eroded away by noon yesterday. Fortunately, downstream villagers fled the area minutes before it burst.

However, the resulting flash flood destroyed a warehouse for explosives used in construction, flushing about 8,000kg of explosives into the ­Laonong River. While experts said the explosives would not likely cause any immediate danger, authorities warned people who live downstream and rescuers to watch out for the explosives.

Several survivors in Liukuei Township’s Sinfa Village (新發), standing next to a collapsed bridge that connected the community to the outside, signaled for help to rescuers that flew by in helicopters.

A rescue team tried to cross the river, but the raging waters prevented them from doing so — one rescuer almost drowned.

According to the emergency operation center in Chiayi, approximately 10,200 people were still trapped in Alishan (阿里山), Meishan (梅山), Chuchi (竹崎), Jhongpu (中埔) and Fanlu (番路) townships as of 2pm yesterday. A representative told the Taipei Times that the number was calculated based on information from the Household Registration Office.

Despite the fact that most structures have collapsed in Taiho Village (太和) and Meishan Township, a Chiayi Fire Department rescuer said that all villagers — except for four who died — are safe and will soon be rescued.

However, in Fanlu, a man surnamed Ma (馬) said in a news clip broadcast by SET-TV that they were running out of food.

“We only have about one or two days of food supplies,” he said. “A helicopter came a couple of days ago to drop off food and other supplies, but it happened only once.”

A storm survivor who has been stranded for six days in Taitung County’s Jinfong Township (金峰) sent out an e-mail yesterday saying that about 1,000 survivors of a massive mudslide in the mountainous area were on the verge of starvation.

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