The military has been making every effort in the search for people missing since deadly landslides hit the Suhua Highway amid heavy downpours brought by Typhoon Megi last week, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said yesterday.
“We’re sending in more personnel and diggers ... we’re doing our best to search for the missing,” Kao said. “We hope the public will have confidence in our soldiers’ determination and abilities.”
His remarks came after relatives of 19 missing Chinese tourists from Guangdong Province held a news conference in Taipei on Wednesday and questioned the efficacy of the search operations.
The tour group, together with their Taiwanese bus driver and tour guide, went missing last Thursday while traveling along a portion of the Suhua Highway that was hit by landslides as rains lashed the area. Eight of the missing are officials of the Gongbei Land Taxation Bureau in Zhuhai, according to the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China.
A Chinese tour guide from a second bus, as well as a local chicken farmer and his wife, are also missing.
Kao said the military has been working closely with the Central Emergency Operation Center.
“We have been doing everything we can in the operations,” Kao said. “More backhoes have been mobilized to join the search since Tuesday.”
Television images showed army helicopters airlifting more diggers to the disaster zone and troops combing sites along the road with metal detectors in an effort to find the coach. Navy and coastguard boats, supported by helicopters, also searched the waters off the northeastern coast amid fears the vehicle may have plunged into the ocean.
Later yesterday, the Yilan District Prosecutors Office said tests confirmed that a body part recovered from the ocean on Monday came from a female Chinese tourist.
“DNA tests conducted by the Institute of Forensic Medicine confirmed that the body part belonged to that of Gong Yen (龔艷), a member of a Chinese tour group,” chief prosecutor Lin Jhe-hui said.
Gong was a member the Guangdong Province group.
Judging from the fact that the remains were salvaged from waters 8 nautical miles (about 15km) off Yilan County, the bodies of the other missing tourists might also have ended up in the sea, Lin said.
Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Deputy Secretary-General Zhang Shenglin (張勝林) and two other Chinese officials visited the damaged section of the highway yesterday morning to observe the search efforts.
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