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Deadly Typhoon Morakot Batters Southeast Asia
TAIPEI, Taiwan, August 10, 2009 (ENS) - Typhoon Morakot slammed into Taiwan and eastern China on the weekend, leaving 14 people in Taiwan dead, 32 injured and about 450 others unaccounted for, according to government statistics. At least 25 people were killed in the Philippines and six more in China before Morakot weakened to a tropical storm.

Twenty-six villagers rescued from Siaolin village in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County by military helicopters today estimated there are still 300 to 400 people who remain unaccounted for and may be trapped in their homes under tons of mud, rocks and debris. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as search and rescue teams do their work.

Typhoon Morakot causes the King-Shai hotel to collapse. (Video on YouTube)

Military helicopters will return Tuesday to pick up dozens of survivors who were left behind today due to bad weather and low visibility. Kaohsiung County's relief center also will send a helicopter in Tuesday to inspect the situation and rescue survivors. This village and several others hit hard by pounding rain and landslides are accessible on land only by a single narrow mountain road.

The typhoon caused what some are calling the worst flooding in 50 years. In one incident Sunday morning, the torrential rains in southern Taiwan's Taitung region caused the King-Shai hotel to collapse into a flooded river. There were no casualties, because all guests were evacuated before the building fell. The hotel serves visitors to the famous hot springs area of Chihpen.

Morakot, which means emerald in the Thai language, also caused agricultural losses of over NT$5 billion in Taiwan, according to data released by the Central Emergency Operation Center.

Flooding in Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Photo by Jonathan Chen)

Charity organizations and private business groups have begun efforts to collect donations and ship relief supplies to devastated areas in southern Taiwan.

Chen Shih-kuei, secretary-general of the local Red Cross Society, said today that his organization has arranged for 2,350 retail outlets around Taiwan to accept donations until September 10. The Red Cross will pick up the donations to use for relief and recovery, Chen said.

On the Chinese mainland, Typhoon Morakot hit Fujian Province Sunday afternoon with wind speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour and waves as high as nine meters (30 feet), smashing hundreds of houses and flooding farms.

More than 8.8 million people in Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces were affected by Morakot, which forced local authorities to relocate 1.4 million people, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said late Monday.

The Red Cross says the low loss of life in China was due to good preparedness measures taken ahead of the advancing typhoon. Among other measures, eight million SMS messages were sent as part of the early warning system.

But late Monday night, a massive landslide brought down torrential rains in Pengxi Township in Zhejiang province, causing six or seven apartment buildings to collapse and burying an unknown number of residents, local authorities said Tuesday.

Rescuers have pulled six people alive from the debris, but one of them is in critical condition.

Hundreds of villages and towns are flooded and more than 6,000 houses have collapsed, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Philippines Red Cross worker distributes relief supplies in Botolan, Zambales. (Photo courtesy Philippine National Red Cross)

Offshore of the Fujian coast, a cargo ship was stranded by strong winds and rescuers are trying to rescue its eight sailors. The ship, Daqing 254, lost control at about 2:30 am Sunday as it was attempting to take shelter from the wind.

The 30,000 ton vessel was blown on to a reef area on Qingshan Island near Ningde City.

The city of Shanghai, directly north of Zhejiang, has released stored water from inland rivers to reduce levels by up to 40 cm (16 inches) in preparation for the typhoon's arrival, the municipal flood control headquarters said Sunday.

Direct economic losses to China have amounted up to 9 billion yuan (1.3 billion U.S. dollars), Xinhua said.

Morakot's destructive path began in the Philippines. Known locally as Kiko, the typhoon hit Luzon province where 21 people died and 83,000 people were affected as floods and landslides destroyed bridges, stranding thousands of motorists.

A landslide in Caranglan in Nueva Ecija, led to the closure of the Philippine National Highway to traffic for almost 24 hours. The heavy rains triggered flooding on the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo, killing four people who were climbing the volcano.

When the eastern section of the dike in Barangay San Juan, Botolan collapsed, over 2,000 people were evacuated with the help of the Red Cross.

Morakot is the region's eighth typhoon this season. Typhoons are frequent in southeast Asia between July and September.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.

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