Shiao Lin: Families and friends paid homage on Saturday to victims buried alive under mud and rock after the worst storm in more than 50 years pounded southern Taiwan unleashing flash flooding and massive landslides.
Some 380 people were killed in the hardest-hit village of Shiao Lin — more than half its entire population — after Typhoon Morakot pummelled the island last weekend causing tons of earth to come crashing down surrounding mountains.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said on Friday more than 500 had died in southern and central Taiwan in the typhoon.
TV images on Saturday showed survivors from Shiao Lin being shuttled from shelters by pickup trucks to attend a Buddhist memorial service a few miles (kilometres) away from their buried homes.
Villagers cried, held each other tightly, and lit sticks of incense at the service to honour family and friends who perished in the storm.
Morakot dumped more than 80 inches (2 meters) of rain on the island and stranded thousands in villages in the mountainous south. A total of 15,400 villagers were ferried to safety and rescuers were working to save another 1,900 people.
The storm destroyed the homes of 7,000 people and caused agricultural and property damage in excess of 50 billion New Taiwan dollars (USD 1.5 billion), according to government estimates.
The only structures standing in Shiao Lin, once a village of about 600 people, were a small brick home and a tiny temple. Large boulders were scattered where houses once stood and streams of mud continued to flow down the mountainous landscape. Helicopters flew overhead on their way to rescue survivors from nearby areas.
Criticism of Ma's handling of the Morakot disaster has risen quickly — even within his own party and in media outlets normally friendly to the president.
First Published: Saturday, August 15, 2009, 10:22