Three people have been confirmed dead and one was missing after being swept away by a flash flood while camping in Nantou County’s Renai Township (仁愛), police said yesterday.
Six people from two families were camping near Lishi Creek (栗栖溪) when the riverbanks were suddenly flooded just after 4am, carrying away four of the campers — including two children — who were asleep in their tents, police said.
A man who was among those swept away was able to climb ashore and call for help, police said, adding that another man had gone missing in the turmoil at the campsite.
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A team comprised of search-and-rescue personnel from the Renai, Sinyi (信義) and Puli (埔里) townships was dispatched to find the four campers, the Nantou County Fire Department said yesterday.
A helicopter was also conducting a search, it said.
The team discovered the body of a young boy at about 8am, that of a woman at about noon and that of a young girl at about 12:40pm, the department said, adding that rescue personnel were still searching for the missing man.
The boy was found about 6km from the campsite, it said.
He and the woman were the mother and son of the Lai (賴) family, the department said, adding that the girl and the missing boy are from the Lu (盧) family.
The two families — both from Taichung — had arrived on Saturday afternoon to a well-known campsite in Wujie (武界), an Aboriginal village, police said.
The flood was allegedly caused by a Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) hydro plant upstream unexpectedly opening its floodgates in the early morning hours, police said.
The mother of the Lu family was asleep in her vehicle at the time and escaped the flood, police said.
As the family’s tent was big enough for only two people to sleep in, she had stayed in the vehicle, while her husband and daughter slept in the tent, police cited the mother as saying.
After being woken up by the sound of rushing water, she called out to the other campers, but received no response, police said, adding that she climbed on top of her vehicle to escape the rising water and attempted to call for help with her mobile phone, but could not get a signal due to the remote location.
Renai Township acting mayor Wang Yuan-chung (王源鍾) asked that the public avoid camping near the county’s rivers, which are prone to flooding, especially after heavy rain.
Those who want to visit the township’s mountainous areas should find locals to guide them, he said, adding that while the county’s natural scenery is beautiful, it also presents many dangers that visitors might not be aware of.
Asked about reports that the flooding was caused by an unannounced water discharge at the Nantou Shuili Taguan Power Plant (大觀電廠) upstream of the Lishi Creek, Taipower confirmed that the plant’s floodgates had automatically opened twice, at 4:12am and 5:08am, due to an “unknown reason.”
A malfunctioning floodgate control system might have caused the gates to open, the utility said.
Plant staff later found the abnormality and shut down the power to its floodgates, Taipower said in a news release.
The power plant is investigating the cause of the incident, it added.
The utility said that the power plant had previously erected warning signs along the river forbidding a variety of activities for safety reasons.
Taipower is assisting police in their search for the missing camper, it added.
Cabinet spokesman Ting Yi-ming (丁怡銘) said rescuers were doing their best to find the missing camper.
Ting pledged that government authorities would launch a thorough probe to determine the cause of the incident and whether Taipower should be held responsible.
Additional reporting by CNA
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