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Typhoon Megi leaves 7 dead in Suao, 23 missing on coastal highway

2010/10/22 23:44:06

Taipei, Oct. 22 (CNA) Seven people were killed by a mudslide andanother 23 traveling on a coastal highway remained unaccounted for asof Friday night after northeastern Taiwan was battered by heavy rainsbrought by Typhoon Megi.

The Central Emergency Operation Center said seven corpses wererecovered from a house in Suao that was buried by a mudslide.

The missing people were on the Suhua Highway connecting Yilan andHualien counties when traffic on the roadway was disrupted bytorrential rain and landslides Thursday.

Those listed as missing included a 19-person tour group fromsouthern China's Guangdong Province, which was last known to betraveling aboard a tour bus on the highway during Thursday's blindingrainstorm.

The group's Taiwanese tour guide and its Taiwanese bus driveralso have been listed as missing.

The Chinese leader of a tour group from Beijing and its Taiwanesebus driver were also unaccounted for after their bus was buried by alandslide on the highway.

The buried bus was located by rescue workers, but neither of thetwo were found inside.

The rockslides and mudslides along the highway triggered by thetorrential rains brought by Typhoon Megi also stranded around 430travelers overnight Thursday.

The Defense Ministry mobilized hundreds of soldiers and SWAT teammembers to remove rocks and build an emergency road to evacuate thosestranded. Helicopters also helped airlifted scores of travelers tosafety during the day.

By Friday evening, most of those not airlifted to safety walkedapproximately 1.2 kilometers to the entry of the emergency road andwere driven to Yilan City.

Fifty-three others decided, however, not to walk the distance,electing instead to spend another night at a safe location on thehighway accompanied by SWAT teams and be airlifted away the followingday.

Premier Wu Den-yih apologized Friday for the poor upkeep of thehighway built in 1932 during Japanese colonial rule.

Speaking at a legislative session, Wu also said that a project toimprove the more vulnerable sections of the highway Yilan County andneighboring Hualien County in eastern Taiwan could begin next yearproviding the project passes an environmental impact assessment.

Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Highways admitted Fridaythat there was room for improvement when asked why the agency did notclose off the accident-prone highway before the area was hit bytorrential rains.

It also forecast that the highway would not be fully repaireduntil Nov. 20.

Due to the convergence of stormy weather on Typhoon Megi'speriphery and seasonal winds from the northeast, Yilan County hasreceived a staggering amount of rainfall in the past few days.

The county's Suao area received 939 millimeters in rainfallbetween midnight Wednesday and midnight Thursday, the most ever inTaiwan for a single day, the Central Weather Bureau said Friday.

The previous record was recorded on Aug. 8, 2009 at the Dawuweather station in Taitung County, when Typhoon Morakot devastatedsouthern and southeastern Taiwan.

Many parts of the county were submerged in flash floodwatersThursday.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, Typhoon Megi-related agricultural losseswere estimated at NT$45.86 million in four counties around Taiwan,according to the Council of Agriculture.

(By Wang Shu-fen, Chen Shun-hsien, Liu Chia-tai, Jenny Hsu, Hsin-Yin
Lee and Sofia Wu)