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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

After the typhoon

For the first time in days, the sun came out this morning (though it rained again in the afternoon). If you've been following the news on such international outlets as CNN and BBC, you are no doubt aware that Typhoon Morakot has come and gone, and left behind it a wide swath of destruction. The film of the hotel falling into the river is bound to become a mainstay on cable TV disaster documentaries for years to come. Our area, Fengyuan in central Taiwan, got off lightly this time. It was extremely windy here on Friday, and the rain was constant and heavy all day on Saturday and Sunday, but unlike some recent typhoons, there was no flooding and very little damage. The same can't be said for much of the rest of Taiwan, especially the south, which was battered by Morakot. This Associated Press article ("400 unaccounted for in Taiwan mudslide") carried in today's Japan Today sums up the misery caused by the storm:

"A mudslide touched off by a deadly typhoon buried a remote mountain village, leaving at least 400 people unaccounted for Monday, and military rescue helicopters, unable to land because of the slippery ground, dropped food to desperate survivors. Typhoon Morakot slammed Taiwan over the weekend with as much as two meters (80 inches) of rain, inflicting the worst flooding the island has seen in at least a half-century. The storm submerged large swaths of farmland in chocolate-brown muck and swamped city streets before crossing the 180-kilometer(112-mile)-wide Taiwan Strait 台灣海峽 and hitting China...A disaster appeared to be unfolding around the isolated southern village of Hsiaolin 小林, which was hit by a mudslide Sunday at about 6 a.m. local time-while many people were still asleep-and was cut off by land from the outside world...400 people were unaccounted for in the village...100 people had been rescued or otherwise avoided the brunt of the disaster...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. Hsiaolin was cut off after flood waters destroyed a bridge about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away. A back road wending its way northward toward the mountain community of Alishan 阿里山 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 54 people were listed as missing. Authorities put the confirmed death toll in Taiwan at 14, but that seemed certain to rise. The typhoon’s path took it almost directly over the capital of T'aipei 台北, but its most destructive effects were in the heavily agricultural south and along the island’s densely foliated mountain spine. Hsiaolin is on Taiwan’s southwestern coast. In rural P'ingtung County 屏東縣, the rains turned rich swaths of farmland so sodden that it was difficult to distinguish them from the open sea. In the P'ingtung community of Santimen 三地門, troops maneuvered armored personnel carriers through flooded streets, plucking whole families from water-logged buildings and ferrying them to safety. In T'aitung 台東, in the southeastern lowlands, a raging flood toppled a five-story hotel."

Life is back to normal in our area. All I can say is that I'm thankful neither my family nor friends suffered as the result of the typhoon (with the exception of one friend who has been stranded at the airport for several days trying to get on a flight back home to Canada). There will probably be more typhoons to come before the season is over, but hopefully none of them will cause anything approaching the death and damage brought down on Taiwan by Morakot.

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