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Rescuers find 700 villagers alive after landslides

Taiwan has begun a helicopter rescue of more than 700 people who were found alive in three villages flattened by landslides triggered by the torrential rains that accompanied Typhoon Morakot, a senior military officer said.

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AFP - Taiwan's military on Wednesday began a helicopter rescue of more than 700 people who were found alive in three villages flattened by landslides, a senior military officer told AFP.

"We have found around 700 people alive in three villages last night and 26 more this morning. We are deploying 25 helicopters to evacuate them," said Major-General Richard Hu.

Hu said he was unable to confirm how many people had been buried or killed by a huge landslide in Hsiaolin and two nearby villages.

Rescuers said Tuesday around 100 people in Hsiaolin were feared dead, while some media reports had speculated that up to 600 people had been killed in the landslide triggered by torrential rains brought by Typhoon Morakot.

As of late Tuesday, 219 people from Hsiaolin and several nearby villages had been airlifted to safety, Hu said.

"We believed that some were buried but it's not possible to estimate how many at this moment as almost 90 percent of the houses were buried," he said.

The typhoon slammed into Taiwan at the weekend, dumping a record three metres (118 inches) of rain, claiming at least 63 lives and leaving another 61 missing.

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