Rescuers search for missing in Wulai

CUT OFF FROM OUTSIDE::Thousands were evacuated from Wulai District, where landslides have destroyed famous hotels and turned hot springs into mud pools

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Aug 11, 2015 - Page 1

Rescuers continued the search for residents of New Taipei City’s Wulai (烏來), Sindian (新店) and Sansia (三峽) districts who went missing after the nation was pummeled by Typhoon Soudelor on Friday and Saturday.

Known for its hot springs, Wulai suffered the most damage by the typhoon, with landslides cutting off the district’s only road access to the rest of the nation.

The emergency operation center in New Taipei City said that it had confirmed that 3,100 residents in Wulai were safe.

About 2,000 Wulai residents were evacuated after the town was severely damaged by the typhoon.

According to the operation center, about 1,100 residents were reluctant to leave their homes because they wanted to clean up the mess left by the typhoon. Ample supplies allowed the residents to remain, the center added.

As of press time last night, the operation center said it was still searching for three missing people in Wulai, one in Sindian and another in Sansia.

The typhoon devastated the hotel industry in Wulai, with media reports saying that four famed hot-spring hotels in the town were completely wiped out by the storm.

Asked if they would resume operations there, some hotel owners said they would have to think about it because the hotels’ hot springs have all been reduced to pools of mud.

Others said that they can no longer stay there because the course of the river has changed and the riverbanks had been eroded heavily by the surging water.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense and National Search and Rescue Center continued to dispatch helicopters to bring supplies and rescuers to the disaster zone and evacuate people who are in need of medical attention.

Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) went to see the damage to the roads in Wulai yesterday afternoon and ordered that an emergency steel bridge be built at the 10.2km mark of Highway No. 9, where a massive landslide occurred, before the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday next month.

Mao also asked the Directorate General of Highways to repair part of Highway No. 9 so that large construction machinery and motor vehicles operated by rescuers could start entering the disaster zone.

The National Fire Agency was instructed to work with Chunghwa Telecom to bring small base stations to the Fushan (福山) area, to ensure uninterrupted communication with the Wulai District Office.

Aside from Wulai, strong winds brought by Soudelor also shattered the antenna cover at the weather radar station in Wufongshan (五分山) in New Taipei City’s Rueifang District (瑞芳).

The antenna cover was shaped like a globe and was one of the district’s most well-known landmarks. The cost of the cover topped NT$200 million (US$6.3 million).

According to the Central Weather Bureau, which owns the radar station, the cover was insured against damage caused by typhoons.