TAIPEI, Taiwan – A mudslide touched off by a deadly typhoon buried a remote mountain village in Taiwan, leaving at least 400 people unaccounted for, while a massive landslide in China toppled seven apartment buildings, an official said today.
Typhoon Morakot slammed Taiwan over the weekend with as much as 80 inches of rain before crossing the 112-mile-wide Taiwan Strait and hitting China.
The storm inflicted the worst flooding the island has seen in at least a half-century, submerging large swaths of farmland in chocolate-brown muck and swamping city streets.
Taiwanese authorities put the confirmed death toll in Taiwan at 38, but that seemed certain to rise. A disaster appeared to be unfolding at the isolated southern village of Shiao Lin, hit by a mudslide Sunday at about 6 a.m. local time – while many people were still asleep – and now cut off by land from the outside world.
Speaking to the Associated Press, a Taiwanese police official who identified himself only by his surname, Wang, said 400 people were unaccounted for in the village. Wang said 100 people had been rescued or otherwise avoided the brunt of the disaster.
One of the rescued villagers, an unidentified middle-aged man, told police that his family of 10 was wiped out.
Another rescued villager, Lin Chien-chung, told the United Evening News he believes as many as 600 people were buried in the mudslide.
“The mudslide covered a large part of the village including a primary school and many homes,” Lin was quoted as saying. “A part of the mountain above us just fell on the village.”
Under leaden gray skies, military helicopters hovered over the community, dropping food and looking for survivors. They were unable to land because of the slippery terrain.
Shiao Lin was cut off after floodwaters destroyed a bridge about 8 miles away. A back road wending its way northward toward the mountain community of Alishan was also believed to be cut off, and with rain still falling in the area, the prospects for an early resumption of overland travel were poor.
Elsewhere in Taiwan, an additional 62 people were listed as missing.
The typhoon’s path took it almost directly over the capital of Taipei, but its most destructive effects were in the heavily agricultural south and along the island’s densely foliated mountain spine. Shiao Lin is on Taiwan’s southwestern coast.
In Taitung, in the southeastern lowlands, a raging flood toppled a five-story hotel.
After pummeling Taiwan, Morakot slammed Sunday into China’s Fujian province, directly across the strait, with heavy rain and winds of 74 miles per hour, according the China Meteorological Administration. Authorities evacuated 1.4 million people, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The heavy rains triggered a massive landslide in Pengxi, a town in Wenzhou city of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, destroying seven three-story apartment buildings at the foot of a mountain late Monday, an official surnamed Chen from the Pengxi government told AP.