Soulik toll rises amid mass repair efforts

HEAVY LOSSES::In addition to claiming three lives, the powerful storm wrecked NT$369m worth of crops and cause NT$16m in damages to 237 schools nationwide

By Shelley Shan and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters, with CNA

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - Page 1

A 57-year old man who went missing on Saturday while mountain climbing was found dead in Pingtung County yesterday, bringing the death toll from Typhoon Soulik to three, officials said.

The man, surnamed Chan (成), was discovered by rescuers at 6:29am at the Liangshan Waterfall in the county’s Majia Township (瑪家) during a second attempt to find him, local authorities said.

Soulik has also left one person missing and 123 injured, as well as causing more than NT$369 million (US$10.2 million) in agricultural losses, the latest government figures show.

On Saturday, Chen Ching-rong (陳錦榮), a 50-year old policeman in New Taipei City (新北市), died after he was struck in the head by a brick that had blown off a house during strong winds, while a 54-year-old woman in Miaoli County died after falling from a rooftop.

The missing person was reported to have fallen into a river in Greater Taichung, but rescuers have been unable to locate the person or the witness who notified police.

The Central Weather Bureau lifted land warnings for Soulik on Saturday afternoon.

A total of 61 people were still trapped in Dahu Township (大湖) in Miaoli County yesterday after about 200m of the only road connecting the village to the outside world collapsed into a deep valley on Saturday, leaving residents in more than 20 households stranded.

Dahu Township Mayor Chen Yung-fu (陳永福) said his office is working to clear a new path.

Meanwhile, emergency crews said they were trying to restore traffic, electricity and water across the nation. Soulik affected transportation and commerce, and left many homes without water or electricity.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said it was still trying to restore traffic on 17 provincial highways and six county highways after some sections collapsed or were disrupted by landslides in the aftermath of the storm.

Taiwan Power Co (台電, Taipower) said 33,735 homes in Nantou, Miaoli, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu counties were still without power, adding that it had restored power to 1.1 million homes.

Taiwan Water Corp (台灣自來水) said that about 15,430 homes, mainly in mountainous areas in Hsinchu County, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung were still without water. However, it said water in Hsinchu County’s Guansi Township (關西) and Miaoli County’s Nanjhung Township (南庄) would be restored by 3pm yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said that as of 9am, 237 schools had reported damage from the storm totaling NT$16 million.

It said schools in Yilan County had suffered the most damage, with 51 institutions affected, followed by New Taipei City with 45 schools and Hsinchu County with 36.

Meanwhile, construction workers were clearing a section of county highway No. 62, which connects the county’s Taian Hot Spring area. The road has been plagued by falling rocks and an estimated 100 tourists have had their trips disrupted after the road was closed on Saturday.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday asked the Council of Agriculture to expedite the provision of subsides to affected farmers.

The council said that, so far, most of the agricultural losses had been borne by farmers of pear, banana, paddy rice, guava and persimmon crops.

Accompanied by Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) and other officials, Ma inspected the damage in Sinwu (新屋) and Dayuan (大園) townships in Taoyuan County.

Accusing Taipower of inefficiency in fixing the typhoon damage, Wu urged the central government to speed up the pace of recovery work.

“We understand that Taipower is fixing power outages, but it’s too slow. The government’s recovery efforts are not meeting public expectations,” he said.

Wu said that about 2,000 hectares of paddy rice and vegetable fields in Taoyuan had been affected.

He said Sinwu is considered one of the nation’s granaries as it has the largest cultivated area for paddy rice in the country, adding that the paddy rice crop is only one week away from harvest.

Ma also listened to a presentation given by the Agricultural and Food Agency, which showed that 178 hectares of paddy rice fields in Sinwu had been damaged.

Aside from drafting or purchasing machines to help salvage the remaining crops, the agency said that it has planned to subsidize farmers by providing NT$14,000 per hectare of paddy rice field based on the current standards.

However, farmers asked for a higher subsidy.

In addition to the ruined rice crops, Dayuan Township Mayor Lu Shui-tien (呂水田) said that most of the town has had no power for the past two days, making it impossible for farmers to dry unhusked rice that was harvested before the storm hit.

Ma asked the council to survey the losses around the nation as quickly as possible, simplify the procedure for farmers to apply for government subsidies and adopt more lenient standards to determine if subsidies should be given. The president also asked the officials to photograph damage to keep a record of it and restore the power supply as soon as possible.

Ma also asked the council and the county government to work together to help farmers who suffered huge financial losses, but may not be eligible for subsidies, by handling them as special cases.

The president vowed that the government would instruct Taipower to fix power outages more quickly.

Meanwhile, Premier Jiang Yi-huan (江宜樺) went to Greater Taichung and Yilan to inspect the damage.