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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Typhoon Nari kills 48 in Taiwan
A Taiwanese man looks at a Taipei street while sitting on a floating rubber cushion
Taipei will take months to repair
At least 48 people have died and 22 are listed as missing in Taiwan after Typhoon Nari brought the island's heaviest recorded rainfall and widespread flooding.

President Chen Shui-bian toured the worst affected areas on an amphibious armoured vehicle as more than 10,000 people were evacuated from sections of northern and central Taiwan.

The search must not stop until all the people classed as missing are found

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian
Most of the victims were in the north of the island where Nari struck on Monday, but it remains over central and southern Taiwan.

The island's National Fire Administration (NFA) said victims, residents of Taipei and Keelung, were either buried by mudslides or washed away by the floods.

Rescuers are continuing to dig through mud and rocks which crashed into houses and more bodies are expected to be found.

Mr Chen said: "The search must not stop until all the people classed as missing are found."

The stock market was closed, ground and air traffic disrupted and the mass rapid transport system in Taipei was paralysed.

A woman carries her shoes as she makes her way through a flooded intersection in central Taipei
A woman makes her way through a flooded intersection in central Taipei

Twenty-seven people died around Taipei, 10 in the northern Keelung city, three in the southern Chiayi county, six in the central county of Miaoli, and one each in the northern counties of Hsinchu and Taoyuan.

Defence ministry spokesman Huang Suey-sheng said about 8,000 soldiers were deployed to help in the rescue and clean-up operations.

The evacuees were forced to take shelter as heavy downpours continued to hit the island, the NFA said.

More than 650,000 households suffered power and water cuts, and telephone lines to about 360,000 households in northern Taiwan were also hit, it said.

The Central Weather Bureau said there had been up to 1,255 millimetres (about 50 inches) of rainfall in some areas in the past two days.

Swollen rivers

Officials said rainfall on Monday of up to 800 millimetres in some places was the most in a single day since records began 70 years ago. That is more rain than normally falls in four months.

He said further torrential rains were expected although Nari was losing momentum and could be downgraded from a tropical storm into a depression in a day.

Many rivers in northern and central Taiwan remained swollen by continuing downpours on Tuesday.

"Heavy rains have been recorded around the island this morning as Typhoon Nari continues to hover around central Taiwan," said an official from Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.

Taipei Deputy Mayor Ou Chin-teh warned that it would take months to get the capital's metro system back on track. "As the system is seriously flooded, it will be unable to resume full operations for half a year," he said.

The remains of an old light house is hit by crashing waves and strong wind  in Keelung, north of Taipei
Massive waves also batter the coast of Taiwan

Officials hope to reopen schools and the stock market on Wednesday but expect hundreds of thousands of commuters in the greater Taipei area to face severe delays.

The city government has called in military help to keep Taipei traffic running smoothly.

The floods hit a slowing economy already likely to suffer fallout from the disruption caused to the US economy by last week's terror strikes.

But a professor at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Lin Wei-shong, downplayed the long-term impact.

"There might be a negative impact on the economy over the short term, but it is not expected to emerge as a deadly blow because major production lines were not damaged," he said.

Taiwan is traditionally typhoon prone but has been particularly hard hit this year.

Two months ago Typhoon Toraji struck central Taiwan causing landslides and flash floods which killed more than 100 people. It also caused widespread damage to agriculture and property.

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing
"Most of those reported to have died were caught in mudslides"
See also:

31 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Typhoon death toll rises
11 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese Dragon replaces Typhoon Ted
18 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Nature's lethal weapons
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Typhoon Nari
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