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September 8, 2009

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Morakot victims remembered

A CHOIR sang in an auditorium adorned with white flowers as typhoon survivors, volunteer rescue workers and government officials gathered yesterday to remember the hundreds of people lost in the flooding and mudslides spawned by a devastating typhoon last month.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou laid a wreath on the stage in front of thousands of mourners who attended the memorial ceremony in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

"The massive flooding - the worst in 100 years - took hundreds of lives in moments," Ma said. "I am saddened and take the blame for it."

He promised to review and consider halting development projects in the affected area to minimize damage from future storms. Up to 10 typhoons hit Taiwan annually between July and October.

Typhoon Morakot killed more than 700 people when it slammed into Taiwan on August 8-9, triggering flooding and mudslides in dozens of villages.

Before the service began, Ma visited a storm-ravaged village in Pingtung County and listened as residents lined up along a dust-covered road to ask for help in cleaning up their homes and finding new jobs, according to TV reports.

At the memorial service, Ma thanked Chinese mainland for donations totaling NT$5 billion (US$150 million) for the storm victims, saying the assistance "demonstrated that blood is thicker than water among people across the Taiwan Strait."

Taiwan has launched a "home adoption" plan to encourage companies and public welfare groups to fund the reconstruction of more than 2,000 houses in a badly hit town in Kaohsiung County.

According to the island's agricultural authority, Morakot caused total agricultural losses of NT$16.4 billion.

And the number of tourists from outside Taiwan may fall by 10 percent from August to October, which could result in an economic loss of NT$2.7 billion, according to official estimates.


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