Thu, Jun 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Typhoon's rains cause landslides

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Workers from the National Freeway Bureau assist a car caught in a mudslide along one of the major roads accessing the Hsitou Recreational Area yesterday.

PHOTO: YOU WEN-YU, TAIPEI TIMES

Heavy rain brought by Typhoon Soudelor yesterday triggered mudflows and landslides in central Nantou County, blocking one of major routes leading to the Hsitou Recreational Area (溪頭遊樂區).

A fire bureau in the area yesterday urged residents to stay away from mountainous areas and rivers.

Yesterday morning, torrential rain triggered landslides and mudflows that blocked Route 151 connecting Hsitou and Luku, also known as the Yenhsi Highway. A 10km stretch of the Neihu section of the route was covered by debris and mud.

Engineers from the Highways Bureau began to try to clear the road but were forced to suspend their work because of bad weather.

Luku township chief Chen Hsi-wu (陳錫梧) said he was worried about how long it would take to clear the route.

"We now have to rely on just one other road, Route 55, to connect to the outside," Chen said.

Yesterday, dozens of tourist coaches leaving Hsitou had to take long detours to leave the mountainous areas.

Officials of a local fire bureau said yesterday that the torrential rain had created a serious threat of flooding.

According to the bureau's statistics, between January 1999 and May this year, 40 people died in floods.

Officials said that tourists visiting mountainous areas should be remain alert, especially for increased turbulence in rivers, the appearance of dead wood from upstream and dark clouds.

Luku, one of the areas hardest hit by the 921 earthquake in 1999, is known for agricultural products, such as tea and bamboo sprouts.

The earthquake, centered on nearby Chichi township, disturbed rock and earth in the area, making it prone to landslides during torrential rain.

Luku receives around 2,600mm of rain a year, the majority of it in the peak tourist season between June and September. The vulnerability of townships in Nantou County to lanslides has made it difficult for the local government to boost tourism in the area.

On Friday next week, an exercise to evacuate residents living in landslide-prone areas will be held in nearby Chungliao township.

In the north, unstable weather caused by the Typhoon Soudelor, named after a legendary Micronesian chief, forced Taipei's Sungshan Airport to close three times in the morning.

Nan Fang Ao (南方澳) in Ilan County yesterday became a refuge for more than 2,000 fishing boats. Officials of Central Weather Bureau lifted the sea warning yesterday afternoon.

Weather forecasters said yesterday that residents in the north and the northeast should be alert to heavy rain today and tomorrow.

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