Patrick Fuller, IFRC, Kuala Lumpur
The search continues for hundreds of people who remain trapped in mountain villages cut off by mudslides and flooding caused by the heavy rains that have deluged central and southern areas of Taiwan in the wake of Typhoon Morakot.
The typhoon crossed Taiwan more than a week ago, dumping over two metres of rainfall. Local authorities say the flooding is the worst in decades.
The Taiwan Red Cross Organization (TRCO) has been at the forefront of the search and rescue operation. Over the past week, volunteers have been reaching stranded communities on foot, helping to evacuate villagers to safety.
“The Red Cross has mobilized three search and rescue teams with more than 200 volunteers who are helping the authorities in Tainan and Kaohsiung counties to locate more than 300 people. Roads have been washed away and bridges have collapsed and the constant rain has made conditions on the ground extremely difficult”, explains Heikki Väätämöinen, at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) disaster management unit in Kuala Lumpur.
The authorities estimate that more than 120 people have died and many remain missing across the affected areas in southern and central Taiwan.
Weather conditions have improved over the weekend, road access to some areas has been restored and power and water supplies have resumed in half of the affected villages. The government has set up 55 temporary living centres where more than 4,500 people are currently staying.
More than 1,500 TRCO volunteers have been involved in relief efforts based out of 11 county-level disaster preparedness warehouses. Relief items have been channelled to more than 6,000 beneficiaries housed in the temporary living centres across the six affected counties from Pingdong to Nantou. These items include jackets, sleeping bags, blankets, cotton quilts and family hygiene kits.
The Taiwan Red Cross Organization is accepting international contributions and the Red Cross Society of China has so far donated 18 million Yuan (2.8 million Swiss francs) to the relief effort.