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Hundreds unaccounted for in mountainous village in southern Taiwan

Hundreds unaccounted for in mountainous village in southern Taiwan

Taipei, Aug. 10 (CNA) An estimated 500 to 600 people remain unaccounted for Monday after mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot hit an isolated mountain village in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County, according to rescued villagers.
"Only 44 residents of Siaolin managed to avoid the mudslides, and the remaining 500 to 600 residents are unaccounted for, " said a family member of residents believed to be trapped in the village and possible buried alive.
The weeping family member urged the government to not waste even a second in launching an operation to rescue the trapped villagers.
Earlier in the day, two army helicopters managed to airlift 26 villagers from Siaolin and two more from neighboring Tajin to safety.
Army authorities originally planned to airlift all 44 of the Siaolin villagers who managed to flee from their mudslide-struck homes, but rescue efforts were suspended after four sorties due to bad weather and low visibility.
The National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) was also forced to cancel its plan to deliver relief supplies to two other mudslide-struck mountain villages -- Namasia and Taoyuan.
The staggering amount of rainfall delivered by Morakot over the weekend led to massive flooding and landslides that wreaked havoc in Kaohsiung County's mountainous Maolin, Taoyuan, Namasia, and Jiasian villages and part of Liouguei, cutting them off from the outside world.
Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing took an NASC flight Monday morning to see for himself the situation in the isolated villages, but the helicopter could not land when it flew to Siaolin because of poor weather.
Some rescued villagers criticized Yang for failing to take timely precautionary measures and procrastinating in organizing relief efforts, but Yang did not directly respond.
He simply said all-out rescue efforts could only begin after water levels in major rivers had retreated, as all bridges and roads linking the mountainous villages with the outside world have been severely damaged.
Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi visited Kaoshiung County's Chishan Junior High School, a post-disaster operation base.
Some local officials complained that the central government was slow in responding to the region's worst flooding in half a century.
Liao said that he has asked the military to enter the disaster zones, weather permitting, to rescue stranded villagers.
(By Sofia Wu)