TAIPEI, Taiwan – A typhoon-spawned mudslide engulfed a mountain village in southern Taiwan, burying up to 600 people, a police official and a rescued villager said Monday.
Typhoon Morakot dumped up to 80 inches (two meters) of rain on some communities over the weekend before moving on to China, where it forced the evacuation of nearly 1 million people along the east coast. Earlier it had struck the Philippines, leaving at least 22 dead.
It has now been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Speaking to The Associated Press, a Taiwanese police official who identified himself by his surname, Wang, said about 400 people are still unaccounted for after Sunday morning’s mudslide in Shiao Lin village. He said about 100 people have been rescued by military helicopter or avoided the slide.
One of the rescued villagers, Lin Chien-chung, told the United Evening News that he believes as many as 600 people were still buried by the mud.
“The mudslide covered a large part of the village, including a primary school and many homes,” he was quoted as saying. “A part of the mountain above us just fell on the village.”
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the differing estimates of people missing.
The village was still cut off from the outside world Monday evening, after flood waters destroyed a bridge about eight miles (12 kilometres) away. Military helicopters have dropped provisions in the area and rescued survivors.
Taiwan’s official death toll from Morakot stands at 14. Another 51, not including the people in Shiao Lin, are listed as missing.
Morakot, meaning emerald in Thai, slammed into China’s Fujian province Sunday afternoon carrying heavy rain and winds of 74 miles (119 kilometres) per hour, according to the China Meteorological Administration. At least one child died after a house collapsed in Zhejiang province.
By early Monday, the storm packed winds of 52 miles (83 kilometres) per hour, it said.
Hundreds of villages and towns were flooded and more than 2,000 houses had collapsed, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Village officials in Zhejiang rode bicycles to hand out drinking water and instant noodles to residents stranded by flooding, while rescuers tried to reach eight sailors on a cargo ship blown onto a reef off Fujian, Xinhua reported.
In Japan, meanwhile, Typhoon Etau slammed into the west coast Monday. Twelve people were killed in raging floodwaters and landslides, and 10 others were missing, police said.
Associated Press writers Gillian Wong in Beijing and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.