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Mudslide spawned by typhoon leaves 600 missing in Taiwan

A TYPHOON-TRIGGERED mudslide engulfed a mountain village in southern Taiwan, burying up to 600 people, a police official and a rescued villager said yesterday.

Typhoon Morakot dumped up to 2 meters of rain on some communities over the weekend before moving on to the Chinese mainland, where it forced the evacuation of more than 1.4 million people along the east coast and left at least six dead.

Earlier the typhoon had struck the Philippines, killing at least 22.

Speaking to The Associated Press, a Taiwanese police official who identified himself by his surname, Wang, said that about 400 people were still unaccounted for after Sunday morning's mudslide in Shiao Lin village. He said about 100 people had been rescued by military helicopter or avoided the slide.

One of the rescued villagers, Lin Chien-chung, told the Taiwan newspaper United Evening News that he believes as many as 600 people were still buried by the mud.

"The mudslide covered a large part of the village, including a primary school and many homes," he was quoted as saying. "A part of the mountain above us just fell on the village."

The village was still cut off from the outside world yesterday evening, after flood waters destroyed a bridge about 12 kilometers away. Military helicopters have dropped provisions in the area and rescued survivors.

Taiwan's official death toll from Morakot stands at 14. Another 51, not including the people in Shiao Lin, are listed as missing.

Morakot, meaning "turquoise" in Thai, slammed into Fujian Province on Sunday afternoon carrying heavy rain and winds of 119 kilometers per hour, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Four deaths were reported in Zhejiang Province and one each in Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Two people in Zhejiang and another in Fujian were missing.

The storm toppled more than 6,000 houses and inundated 387,300 hectares of cropland, the ministry said. Direct economic losses were estimated at 9 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion).

Heavy losses

Morakot was downgraded to a tropical storm early yesterday, yet still caused heavy flooding and substantial losses along its path on the mainland.

In Fujian's Xiapu County, where the typhoon made landfall, at least 136,000 people suffered property losses from flooding and landslides.

Zhang Changjian, deputy county chief, said that local agriculture and fishery industries were severely battered, with direct losses estimated at 200 million yuan.

More than 48,000 vessels were recalled to ports in Fujian, where 505,000 people were evacuated.

Zhejiang's Wenzhou City reported the first typhoon death on Sunday after three adults and a 4-year-old boy were trapped in debris when torrential rain brought down five houses. The others were rescued, but the boy died, according to the city's flood control headquarters.

In Zhejiang, more than 3.4 million people suffered property losses as hundreds of villages were flooded and more than 1,800 houses collapsed, according to the Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Hangzhou's famed West Lake was closed on Sunday, and navigation along the Qiantang River, one of its tributaries, was halted.


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