Body found as time runs out for tourists

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am

Rescuers found another body yesterday as they raced against time to search for 25 people missing after Severe Typhoon Megi sideswiped Taiwan.

'The latest victim, identified as Liu Yun-chun, was a female teacher from a school for handicapped children,' the National Fire Agency said.

The latest discovery brought the number of people killed by Megi-triggered landslides to 13, and so far all those confirmed dead were from Taiwan, the agency said.

Taiwanese authorities sent more than 2,000 rescuers to comb a coastal ravine and the sea where officials believed a bus carrying 21 people - including 19 tourists from Guangdong - might be buried.

They were also looking for four other people, including a bus tour leader, identified as Tian Yuan, from Beijing, who has been missing since rockslides buried many sections of the Suao-Hualien Highway on which they were travelling on Thursday.

Helicopters, sniffer dogs and small bulldozers were also used to try to find the missing people, but the damage to the highway hampered search efforts, agency officials said.

They hoped to find the missing before the critical 72-hour period for finding people ended.

Tian's husband, mother and aunt arrived in Taiwan from Beijing on Saturday night.

'All I want is to find my daughter as soon as possible,' Tian's mother said yesterday in Suao.

Shao Qiwei, the mainland's National Tourism Administration chairman, who is also the chairman of the Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association, sent three officials to Taiwan yesterday to help the association's Taipei branch deal with the aftermath.

Seven officials from Zhuhai, Guangdong, also arrived in Taiwan yesterday to learn more about the search for the missing tourists.

Taiwan's Transport Ministry said yesterday that relatives of the missing people, including those from the mainland, would receive NT$5.1 million (HK$1.27 million) if their family members were not found.

By Saturday, Megi landed in Zhangpu county, on Fujian's southern coast, causing an estimated 1.5 billion yuan (HK$1.74 billion) in damage.

More than 600,000 Fujian residents were affected by the storm. On Saturday, 16 fishermen also went missing in Zhejiang province. No deaths were reported.

Megi was the third typhoon to hit Zhangpu county this year after typhoons Lionrock and Fanapi last month.

According to the Zhangzhou statistics bureau, at least 630,000 residents in the city's nine counties and 80 towns were affected and more than 450 houses collapsed.

The Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday that Megi destroyed more than 2,000 fishing boats moored in the town of Gulei.

High waves brought by Megi also destroyed seawater abalone farms in the the town's Daizai village area, dumping more than 20 million abalone on the shoreline.

In Zhejiang, the fishing boat Zhesanyu 0036 flipped and sank on Saturday morning after being hit by high waves. Two men on the boat were rescued.

Xinhua also reported that ferry services between Quemoy, Matsu and Penghu and the Fujian coast had resumed after being suspended last Monday, stranding many Taiwanese passengers.

Flights cancelled on Friday and Saturday at the airports in Shantou, Guangdong, and Xiamen, Fujian, resumed after Megi weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm.