Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 19:30 UK

Hundreds of Taiwanese feared dead


Mudslides have caused devastation in the aftermath of the typhoon

Hundreds of people are feared to have died after a landslide triggered by Typhoon Morakot swept into a southern mountain village.

Rescue workers have been trying to find survivors in Hsiaolin and surrounding villages but the military says more than 700 are trapped and possibly dead.

The typhoon struck Taiwan at the weekend, dumping record amounts of rain and washing out roads and bridges.

The storm also hit mainland China, where six people were reported killed.

Two died when a landslide submerged a group of houses late on Monday.

It was initially believed that the buildings were apartment blocks, with many families buried, but Chinese officials later confirmed that they were one-storey homes which had mostly been evacuated before the landslide.

'The mountain fell'

Helicopters have been dropping rescuers into the village of Hsiaolin, in the mountains of southern Taiwan, and winching out residents, trapped for several days by landslides that have cut road access and buried many houses.

About 150 people who survived Sunday's landslide by reaching higher ground have now been pulled out of the area to safety, and more survivors were rescued on Monday and Tuesday.

But more than 700 people were trapped, possibly dead, in Hsiaolin and a neighbouring village of Namahsia, Maj Gen Hu Jui-chou told Reuters news agency.

Aerial photo of flooded Hsiaolin village in Chiashien, Kaohsiung county, in southern Taiwan

His statement tallies with testimony of survivors, who have spoken of hundreds of people still buried in their homes in Hsiaolin, which was home to about 1,000 people.

"I was watching from my house upstairs," said one survivor, Lee Chin-long.

"The whole mountain just fell off. When I saw that, I started to run. Almost every house was gone, except for a couple."

A helicopter with three people on board involved in a mission to rescue residents of a different mountain village was reported to have crashed in bad weather. It was not known if there were any survivors.

Typhoon Morakot dropped some two metres (80 inches) of rain on Taiwan this weekend, causing the worst flooding in five decades.

Rivers have burst their banks, washing away buildings, roads and bridges, cutting power lines and flooding city streets as well as farmland. Losses to the farming industry are estimated at $152m (£92m).

Taiwan's official death toll from Morakot stands at 62, with 57 officially missing.

Houses destroyed

After slamming Taiwan, the storm moved across the strait to China where it has weakened in force.

BBC correspondent Chris Hogg
Chris Hogg, BBC News, Zhejiang province, China
All day they have been digging in Pengxi - scrabbling away to try to clear the road with a digger, huge lorries taking away the debris.

But still they are only about half-way through the wall of mud which has blocked the street, and now night has fallen.

Some of the residents here whose houses have been destroyed are very angry and frustrated. We have been told by local people that the two women who died had actually been moved to a place of safety when the typhoon hit, but they came back because they thought it was safe.

After five days of continuous rain, the soil had been loosened and when the landslip happened it happened in seconds; the two women did not have a chance.

About 1.4 million people were evacuated from coastal areas of Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

Two people were killed in the town of Pengxi in Zhejiang when a landslide struck about seven houses late on Monday. Officials said six people were pulled alive from the rubble but two later died.

Four other deaths were reported in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces.

Overall, about 6,000 houses were destroyed and more than 380,000 hectares of farmland flooded, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced. The storm has caused as much as $1.3bn dollars in damage, the ministry said.

Morakot also dumped heavy rains in the north of the Philippines, killing at least 22 people last week.

In Japan, Typhoon Etau - bringing winds of up to 108km (67 miles) an hour - set off flash floods and landslides that have killed at least 13 people.

It was forecast to hit the Tokyo area on Tuesday, but turned eastward into the Pacific Ocean after dropping heavy rain.

Typhoons and tropical storms are frequent in the region between July and September.


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