Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Saturday, 15 August 2009 12:53 UK

Taiwan leader in typhoon apology

Women mourn in Hsiaolin - photo 15 August
Relatives gathered in Hsiaolin, where hundreds are buried feared dead

President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan has apologised for the slow official response to Typhoon Morakot.

"We could have done better and we could have been faster," he told reporters one week after the typhoon struck.

Hundreds of people are still trapped by mudslides and floods. More than 120 have been confirmed dead.

Families of nearly 400 people feared dead in the village of Hsiaolin returned there on Saturday to the site to grieve for their loved ones.

Relatives were seen calling out to the buried victims and burning incense, while TV pictures showed one man being restrained as he tried to bang his head against a wall.

Some families have demanded to have the bodies of victims dug up, but many believe digging them out would harm them, a local official told the BBC.

The official said the wishes of relatives would be respected and the site would be turned into a memorial park. Survivors would be housed elsewhere.

'Very sorry'

"We could have done better and we could have been faster. But we weren't better and we weren't faster," President Ma told reporters in Nantou county, one of the areas hit by the typhoon, the AFP news agency reports.

Soldiers carry supplies for typhoon victims

"Of course we are very sorry."

Thousands of troops have been sent to help rescue them and provide shelter.

They have been struggling across shattered roads and collapsed bridges to reach stranded communities.

Critics say the authorities were too slow to realise the magnitude of the emergency, while some of those stranded have said they have received no help for days and have been short of food and water.

Many have been waiting for days at the rescue operation centre in Qishan for news of relatives missing since the typhoon struck.

Officials says rescue teams have been hampered by sustained rains in the centre and south of the island and a badly damaged road network which means many villages can only be accessed by air.

Many of the worst-affected villages are inhabited by aborigines, who farm the mountainous terrain.

Thousands more people are believed to be stranded in remote settlements elsewhere in southern and central Taiwan.

The government has requested from foreign countries prefabricated buildings to help house those left homeless by the flooding and supplies of disinfectant, to try to prevent the spread of disease.

In China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, companies and charities have raised more than 100m yuan ($14.6m) in donations, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

Map of area of Taiwan
Qishan - rescue operation centre established here, thousands of troops drafted in to help.
Liukuei - 200 people awaiting rescue from hot spring resort as of Thursday, with another 700 survivors in the area.
Hsinfa - 32 people reported dead, survivors pulled to safety using ropes thrown across river.
Hsiaolin - hundreds feared dead following mudslides the morning after Taiwan's Father's Day.
Taoyuan - residents told to run to higher ground as embankment holding back lake gave way.

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