Taiwan flooding, landslides kill at least 50, scores missing

Flooding and landslides in Taiwan triggered by Typhoon Morakot have killed at least 50 people and scores are still missing, according to rescuers. About 100 people are feared dead after a mudslide caused by the typhoon buried a small village.


AFP - Typhoons pummelling East Asia have killed at least 70 people, with rescuers in Taiwan battling to find survivors of a mudslide that may have buried about 100 villagers, officials said Tuesday.

A total of 50 people were confirmed dead in Taiwan and 58 were listed as missing, not counting the mudslide victims, after Typhoon Morakot unleashed the island's worst flooding in half a century over the weekend.

At least 20 were killed as landslides and flooding left a trail of destruction in China and Japan, where officials feared more damage after a powerful earthquake loosened rain-soaked ground southwest of Tokyo.

A helicopter carrying three rescue personnel involved in typhoon relief efforts crashed in heavy fog in southern Taiwan, an official said, without giving details of casualties.

The Taiwanese government's National Fire Agency said "about 100 people may have been buried alive" in the remote village of Hsiaolin, which could only be reached by helicopter with all road access to the mountainous area severed.

Rescuers said they had airlifted roughly 500 people to safety in southern Taiwan, including about 70 from Hsiaolin.

One Hsiaolin survivor, Wong Ruei-chi, said he had lost 10 relatives in the mudslide.

"I've lived in the village for 46 years and I had seen strong winds and rain, but I've never seen anything as terrible as this," he told the Apple Daily newspaper.

Morakot lashed Taiwan with three metres (118 inches) of rain over the weekend, submerging entire streets and bringing down bridges, said the fire agency.

Rescue missions were in full swing with authorities rushing out supplies by helicopter to cut-off areas in the centre and south of the island.

In Pingtung county in southern Taiwan, thousands of people remained trapped in three coastal townships without electricity or drinking water.

The Apple Daily said one man in a flooded Pingtung town had single-handedly rescued about 100 people with a bamboo raft over the past two days.

In eastern China, a massive landslide triggered by torrential rain from Typhoon Morakot toppled seven older houses in one town, killing two people and injuring four, firefighters and residents said.

The four-storey buildings collapsed around 10:00 pm Monday night in the town of Pengxi in the coastal province of Zhejiang.

Local resident Tang Zhonghai, whose house sits opposite the collapsed buildings, said he was startled awake by the landslide.

"At about 10 o'clock at night I heard a very loud noise. I thought it was an earthquake but I saw through the window that the old buildings had fallen down," Tang told AFP.

"When I saw what had happened, I left home and tried to help the rescue."

Typhoon Morakot has left a further six people dead and three missing on the Chinese mainland, the civil affairs ministry said late Monday, adding it also destroyed more than 6,000 houses.

Japan, following its early-hours 6.4 magnitude tremor, rushed out about 400 troops after Typhoon Etau brought floods and landslides that killed at least 14 people and left 18 missing, police and officials said.

Heavy downpours have drenched Japan since the weekend and caused flooding in the worst-hit city of Sayo, in western Hyogo prefecture, where 12 of the deaths were reported after a swollen river burst its banks.

Typhoon Etau was Tuesday churning through the Pacific Ocean but veering east and away from Japan's coast.

The typhoon, packing winds of up to 126 kilometres (78 miles) an hour, had originally been forecast to veer close to the densely populated region around Tokyo.

Japan's weather agency issued an alert for more "possible landslides and sediment disasters" in the quake-hit areas, warning that the sodden earth may be unstable after being jolted by the strong tremor.

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