Tuesday, August 25, 2009

292 killed in Morakot

Taiwan's government on Monday confirmed that 292 people were killed and 385 missing. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - TAIWAN'S government on Monday confirmed that 292 people were killed and 385 missing after Typhoon Morakot struck the island and caused its worst flooding in half a century earlier this month.

Those still unaccounted for include 311 from the southern village of Hsiaolin, the National Fire Agency said.

With the hope of finding bodies fading, an increasing number of people still hunting for loved ones decided to list them as dead rather than missing.

Relatives in Hsiaolin on Monday decided to halt their search for the corpses of those buried by mud that is three to four stories deep, television stations reported.

At least 45 people were injured as the typhoon lashed the island with a record three metres of rain, submerging houses and streets and destroying bridges more than two weeks ago.

The official death toll previously stood at 163.

President Ma Ying-jeou, whose popularity has sunk to an all-time low since the typhoon over his administration's slow response to the disaster, has said the final death toll could exceed 500, with hundreds buried.

Further complicating reconstruction efforts was an outbreak of suspected swine flu infections in the flooded area. The number of those to have died of the disease in Taiwan rose to five from three, according to the health authorities.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan ordered all the soldiers mobilised for the clean-up and reconstruction operation to wear protective face masks amid reports that four soldiers had contracted the disease and hundreds of civilian people in the township of Chiatung had developed temperatures.

'Those staying in the emergency shelters, including the homeless and volunteer workers, also need to heighten their vigilance because they have been contacting a lot of people in the aftermath of the typhoon and belong to a high risk group,' he said. -- AFP

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