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August 22, 2009

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Ma feels pressure as Taiwan toll grows

MORE than 600 people were listed dead or missing in Taiwan after one of the island's worst typhoons as rescuers began digging up bodies buried deep under rocks and mud.

Taiwan's disaster center has logged 153 deaths since Typhoon Morakot as well as 464 missing feared buried in landslides that wiped out parts of villages in southern mountains.

Taiwan media said the island was heading for a "cabinet reshuffle" amid criticism of the government's response to the worst floods in 50 years after the typhoon dumped record rainfall in the region from August 7-9.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou, whose popularity has plummeted over widespread perceptions of slow or chaotic responses to the storm, received a pledge from the military to intensify search efforts even further, his spokesman said.

"He knows it's hard," spokesman Tony Wang said as Ma visited villages where relatives searched for family members under landslides tens of meters thick.

Hsinkai, a village where 32 are feared buried, will be unearthed within a week, according to local officials.

Ma, facing his worst crisis since being elected head of the island in May 2008, said his administration would investigate the government response to Morakot and come up with those held responsible.


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