260 Rescued From Taiwan Mudslide

In this image taken on Aug. 10, 2009, and released by the Taiwan Military News Agency on Aug. 11, 2009, an aerial view of the flooded village of Shao Lin inflicted by Typhoon Morakot is seen in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung county. AP/Taiwanese Military News Agency

Updated at 4:30 a.m. Eastern.

Taiwanese television stations reported Tuesday that the country's military had rescued about 260 people whose village was consumed by a typhoon-spawned mudslide, but there was still no word on the fate of scores of others buried by the disaster in the island's south.

The mudslide touched off by Typhoon Morakot inundated the remote mountain village of Shiao Lin on Sunday, leaving at least 400 people unaccounted for. The storm dumped as much as 80 inches of rain on the island before moving on to China.

On Tuesday, authorities said at least 41 people were confirmed dead and 60 were missing after Morakot swept Taiwan. Those tolls do not include the residents of Shiao Lin, whose fate has been unclear since Sunday's
mudslide.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese TV reported that a helicopter carrying five crew members and a nurse crashed into a mountain while on a mission to rescue villagers whose homes were destroyed by the powerful typhoon.

The reports said the helicopter was spotted lying in a valley after crashing on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on the fate of those aboard the helicopter.

Taiwanese media said the helicopter crashed while flying to Sandimen, a mountainous region in southern Pingtung county.

The storm inflicted the worst flooding the island nation has seen in at least a half-century, submerging large swaths of farmland in chocolate-brown muck and swamping city streets.

One of the rescued villagers from Shiao Lin, an unidentified middle-aged man, told police that his family of 10 was wiped out.

"They're gone," he said, according to a local photographer who overheard the exchange. "All gone."

Another rescued villager, Lin Chien-chung, told the United Evening News he believes as many as 600 people were buried in the mudslide.

"The mudslide covered a large part of the village including a primary school and many homes," Lin was quoted as saying. "A part of the mountain above us just fell on the village."

Lin said he and several neighbors moved to higher ground several hours before the mudslide hit because torrential rains had flooded their homes.

Taiwan's population register lists Shiao Lin as having 1,300 inhabitants, though many are believed to live elsewhere.

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.

Shiao Lin was cut off after floodwaters destroyed a bridge about 8 miles away. A back road wending its way northward toward the mountain community of Alishan 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 62 people were listed as missing.

The typhoon's path took it almost directly over the capital of Taipei, but its most destructive effects were in the heavily agricultural south and along the island's densely foliated mountain spine. Shiao Lin is on Taiwan's southwestern coast.

In rural Pingtung county, the rains turned rich swaths of farmland so sodden that it was difficult to distinguish them from the open sea. In the Pingtung community of Sandimen, troops maneuvered armored personnel carriers through flooded streets, plucking whole families from water-logged buildings and ferrying them to safety.

In Taitung, in the southeastern lowlands, a raging flood toppled a five-story hotel.

Anxious relatives in Taitung county begged President Ma Ying-jeou to help their loved ones.

"You must try to save my father," cried one. "Please, I beg you to save my father."

After pummeling Taiwan, Morakot slammed Sunday into China's Fujian province, directly across the strait, with heavy rain and winds of 74 miles per hour, according the China Meteorological Administration. Authorities evacuated 1.4 million people, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Chinese government used cell phones to send warnings - an estimated 8 million text messages telling people to flee to higher ground, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen.

The heavy rains triggered a massive landslide in Pengxi, a town in Wenzhou city of eastern China's Zhejiang province, destroying seven three-story apartment buildings at the foot of a mountain late Monday, an official surnamed Chen from the Pengxi government told AP.

Xinhua reported an unknown number of residents were buried in the landslide but Chen said there were only six people there at the time and they were all pulled out alive, although two later died when emergency treatment failed. The rest were injured, one seriously, he said.

Chen said half of the buildings were left vacant after residents moved elsewhere for work.

Hundreds of villages and towns were flooded and more than 6,000 houses collapsed. Four people died in Zhejiang, and two other deaths were reported in Fujian and Jiangxi province, Xinhua said.

Before plowing into Taiwan, the storm hit the Philippines, where it killed 22.
  • CBSNews

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