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Asia-pacific

More troops hurried to disaster areas amid public fury

©

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Latest update : 2009-08-13

Taiwan has appealed for international help and deployed thousands of extra soldiers amid growing public frustration at the lack of progress in rescue efforts, with hundreds still left stranded in the aftermath of typhoon Morakot.

AFP -Taiwan Thursday deployed thousands of extra troops as it faced growing public anger and pressure to rescue people trapped by deadly landslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot.
   
The military said 4,000 more soldiers were added to the rescue effort, bringing the total to 38,000, as the death toll from the island's worst floods in half a century rose to 108 with fears it may rise dramatically.
   
Helicopters were scouring remote areas in the centre and south of the island, dropping food and medicine to cut-off villages and evacuating people to safety, while rain continued to fall.
   
Nearly 14,000 people have been airlifted to safety since last weekend's typhoon, which dumped three metres (120 inches) of rain, but the government has been accused by survivors and politicians of doing too little, too late.
   
Dozens of mountain villages populated mainly by indigenous aboriginal tribes have been totally cut off for days after landslides destroyed roads and bridges, leaving them only accessible by air.
   
Tempers have flared as desperate relatives have gathered at rescue centers -- police and soldiers Wednesday had to push back people who tried to storm their way on to helicopters heading to the stricken zone.
   
"32 DEAD, SOS," read a sign painted in red on a smashed bridge at the only entrance to the village of Hsinfa, a hot spring resort where bodies were found buried by mudslides.
   
"We are helpless. We are forgotten. We have been waiting for the helicopters without supplies," one villager told AFP.
   
President Ma Ying-jeou was confronted by relatives complaining about his government's handling of the crisis on Thursday when he travelled to the county of Yunlin to inspect relief efforts.
   
Television footage showed dozens of people surrounding Ma, with one man angrily asking: "What is the government doing? It's too late, they cannot be saved."
   
Ma deflected criticism his administration had been too proud to ask for outside help by saying the United States, Japan, Singapore, China had already made donations and that help from other countries was welcome.
   
Among the first aid to arrive was a shipment of food and medicines from Singapore, the foreign ministry said.
   
It said the government had asked for international help providing rescue equipment and that more than 50 countries had sent their condolences or said they were willing to help.
   
An intense rescue effort has focused on Hsiaolin and several neighbouring villages in Kaohsiung county which were almost totally destroyed by landslides.
   
While around 1,000 survivors have been found and some 600 airlifted to safety, it is feared more than 100 people could have been buried alive under the rubble.
   
The National Fire Agency said around 200 people were trapped and awaiting evacuation at another hot spring resort in Liukuei, a township made up of a cluster of mountain villages.
   
Meanwhile, the military said it had located 700 more survivors in Liukuei Thursday morning and had started moving the group to safety.
   
Villagers told AFP that more people could have been buried alive as some villages were either flattened or badly damaged in the typhoon.
   
Typhoon Morakot caused an estimated 280 million US dollars of damage to agriculture and tens of millions of dollars of lost tourism revenue to the scenic mountain regions where hot spring spas are popular.
   
Five undersea cables were damaged as the typhoon triggered mudslides in the sea off southern Taiwan, disrupting Internet connections and jamming telephone services, said Chunghwa Telecom.
   
China has so far donated around 16 million US dollars for island's typhoon relief efforts, while Hong Kong pop star and actor Andy Lau was to front a major flood relief fundraising effort in Taipei on Friday.
   
Morakot was one of the worst typhoons to strike Taiwan in 50 years. In August 1959 a typhoon killed 667 people and left around 1,000 missing.

Date created : 2009-08-13

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