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Girl survives river tracing accident in New Taipei (update)

2016/06/06 13:01:18

Search continues Monday morning. (Photo courtesy of the New Taipei City Fire Department)

Taipei, June 6 (CNA) A teenager who was among six people swept away in a flash flood during a river tracing trip in New Taipei on Sunday survived the accident by clinging to piece of driftwood and she showed up at the home of a resident early Monday asking for help, police said.

Ho Yu-chieh (何妤婕), 15, arrived at the home of a man in the city's Pinglin District in the early hours of Monday seeking help, and he called emergency services at 5:39 a.m., police said.

She was taken to hospital where the medical staff examined her and found only bruises but no serious injuries, police said.

Doctors at the hospital in Xindian District said Ho will be kept at the facility for further observation.

The girl was one of six females who were swept away during a river tracing trip Sunday around noon when the water level in the Tainiuliao River in New Taipei surged suddenly.

[Photo courtesy of the New Taipei City Fire Department]

Three people, all adults in their 40s, were found later in the day with no vital signs and were pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

On Monday at around 8 a.m., the body of 13-year-old Lei Jo-yu (雷若瑜) was found some 200 meters away from where Ho went ashore.

As of noon Monday, the sixth person, 44-year-old Hsu Chia-hui (許佳惠), was still missing.

The New Taipei City Fire Department said 370 rescue workers were combing the river and its surroundings, using 20 boats as well as helicopters.

Speaking to police after her 17-hour ordeal, Ho said that when she was swept downstream in the flash flood, she managed to grab a piece of driftwood and she clung to it until it snagged near a big rock close to the riverbank.

Ho said she rested on the rock overnight until the water level dropped and she was able to wade ashore to seek help.

"She always was a very calm kid," said her mother, who was also on the river tracing trip but made it to safety when the flood struck.

The teenager also told rescue workers that she had noticed some bags on the other side of the river when she made it to shore near the 48-kilometer mark of the Provincial Highway No. 9. The information led rescue workers to the spot where Lei's body was found.

Lei was on the trip with her parents and a younger brother. Her mother was one of the three adults who died in the accident.

Meanwhile, three people who worked for the company which organized the trip were questioned by the Taipei Prosecutors Office and later released. The company faced questions of why it decided to go ahead with the trip despite a heavy rain warning issued by the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) for New Taipei on Sunday.

Some 152.5 mm of rainfall was recorded in Pinglin District on Sunday, the CWB said, cautioning that its heavy rain warning was still in place Monday for most of Taiwan.

At 10 a.m., the CWB updated the areas covered by the warning and said 80 mm of rainfall was expected over the next 24 hours in those locations, including New Taipei.

(By Wang Chao-yu, Sunrise Huang, Yu Kai-hsiang and Kay Liu)