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Page last updated at 20:43 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 21:43 UK

'Washed away by the typhoon'

By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Qishan

Soldiers struggle to make their way across rapids to trapped residents from the flooded village of Hsiaolin in Taiwan on Tuesday (image released by Taiwan Military News Agency)
Rescue teams have found reaching the village a struggle

Typhoon Morakot slammed into Taiwan over the weekend, bringing a record amount of rain, which caused soil erosion.

Here in Qishan, we are close to the village of Hsiaolin, where hundreds are feared to have perished in a mudslide.

The mudslide occurred early in the morning while most people were at home. The village had an unusually high number of people there at the time because it was the morning after Taiwan's Father's Day.

Chih Shi-li, a 62-year-old villager, said he and his family were lucky to escape with the shirt on their backs.

"The mudslide came crashing down while we were still in bed. It was very scary. It was like an explosion," he told me.

'House shaking'

"I told my family and called out to my neighbours, 'Run to as high an area as you can.' Our house was shaking and was about to topple over, we had no time to get anything.

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"I took only my wallet with my ID card in it. Our home got washed away later by the mud."

Harrowing accounts like this are pouring out as helicopters ferry dozens of survivors from the village.

Dozens of family members have gathered in Qishan to wait anxiously as helicopters fly in survivors.

One woman said she had not been able to reach her son and mother-in-law by mobile.

"I'm really worried," she told me. "Most of the people in the village were elderly and children."

Residents' complaints

Another woman, Liu Hsiu-chu, said there could be more people trapped inside the village because more people were there than usual.

Homes collapse in raging floodwaters from Typhoon Morakot, in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan, on Tuesday
Leaning houses demonstrate the force of the floods

"Usually young people go to work and not many people are in the village but it was Father's Day so there were more people," she said.

Residents have complained that the authorities should have done more to prepare people for the typhoon, such as checking for the safety of structures built on slopes and evacuating people.

"It's not like typhoons are a surprise. They happen every year at this time. They could have done more to prepare people and prevent so much destruction," said Lin Jin-hsiung, a resident in the biggest city near the village.

The only thing worried relatives can do now, however, is wait.


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