MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: NT$20 million in driftwood collected

STAFF WRITER

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 - Page 3

Typhoon Morakot caused the largest amount of driftwood ever seen in the Taitung area, much of it expensive wood, such as the Formosan Cypress.

Taitung Forest District Office said it had collected more than 600m² of wood, valued at approximately NT$20 million (US$606,000). As more wood is still being found and collected, the total value of driftwood washed up by the typhoon could be about NT$100 million, it added.

The office has picked out the most precious types of driftwood, treated it, marked it and then transported it to a “tree bank” where the wood is watched by security guards to ensure against theft.

Members of the public had also been quick to act, with many people using excavators and cranes to gather as much precious driftwood as they could.

Some lucky ones had managed to collect driftwood worth several million dollars, but face the threat that they could be caught with the wood by local authorities. Some had used their excavators to bury the driftwood under the ground and were planning to pick the wood up inspections in the affected area had been completed, the office said.

Office staff, however, had seen traces of the buried wood and noticed a strong smell of timber. The workers were surprised to see Formosan Cypress buried when they dug the area up.

The office said Morakot had caused the most extensive floods in 50 years, which had caused the most damage and washed up the most driftwood. The office said there were still many areas where staff have not been able to access and that there is probably a lot more wood to be picked up.

Aside from Formosan Cypress, the “tree bank” also has more than 100 Taiwan Cypress, Taiwan Incense-Cedar, Japanese Zelkova and Camphor. Each piece of driftwood is valued at between NT$20,000 and NT$50,000.

Selling the wood would bring in approximately NT$20 million, which would be treated as income for the national treasury, the Taitung Forest District Office said.