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Taiwanese rescuers find 'village that disappeared'

When rescuers reached the village of Hsiaolin, they found half of it buried under an avalanche of mud and water so deep that not even the roofs of buildings could be seen.

Around half of the 200 homes in the remote mountain village in southern Taiwan were smothered by the mudslide triggered by Typhoon Morakot, leaving an estimated 100 people missing, feared buried alive.

"I could hardly believe my eyes," Su Shen-tsun, one of the rescuers flown into Hsiaolin by helicopter said, describing the surreal sight of the village submerged beneath a brown blanket of mud, rock and uprooted trees.

"The whole village disappeared and even roofs of the houses could not be seen."

Tearful survivors, anxious for news of missing loved ones, wept openly as they met villagers being ferried to safety nearby. Ambulances were on hand to take the injured to hospital.

"My house is gone. We have been trapped for four days and we are scared," one resident told reporters from an elementary school in nearby Chishan, which was being used as a make-shift airfield.

He was one of about 70 villagers airlifted out, while authorities said another 150 locals had found safety in the village, some of whom were apparently reluctant to leave.

Another survivor, Wong Ruei-chi, said he had lost 10 relatives in the mudslide.

"I've lived in the village for 46 years and I had seen strong winds and rain but I've never seen anything as terrible as this," he told the Apple Daily newspaper.

Floods and landslides knocked out power in towns and villages across parts of the south of the island, where rescuers were using everything from landing craft to armoured vehicles and jetskis to reach stranded survivors.

"We have no water, no food and no electricity," a 60-year-old man carrying a girl on his back told AFP as he fled the village of Liukuai.

"I have to get my granddaughter out."

Rescuers waded through chest-high water in some areas to reach homes, carrying the elderly on their backs or helping them into inflatable boats to escape the floods, caused by a record three metres (118 inches) of rain.

Some survivors piled their belongings on armoured personnel carriers or used boats or makeshift rafts to navigate the flooded streets.

Elsewhere, piles of damaged furniture and ruined possessions were dumped in the streets - wreckage from the island's worst flooding in half a century.

In Taitung county, a scenic tourist spot famous for its hot spring, overflowing rivers destroyed numerous houses.

One woman there was hugging a tearful relative after an emotional reunion.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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