2009-08-11

Typhoon Morakot

Morakot, a vast, slow-moving tropical storm packing heavy rains, blew through Taiwan on August 8 Saturday. The record-breaking volume of water it dropped on the island, 2.5 meters (100 inches), was the highest in five decades. Southern areas of the island encountered more rainfall in one day than they normally absorb in one year. The result has been colossal flooding in central and southern areas from Taiwan. The storm has left a trail of devastation in both coastal and mountain areas. This morning rivers continue to erode their banks, bridges and roads remain out, and homes lie buried in mudslides or vanished in floods. Rescue workers struggle to locate the missing as the vast toll taken by the storm on human life and property is assessed.

At the end of the weekend the Taipei Times had this report (italics mine):

The highest accumulated rainfall from Morakot as of [Sunday] was in Alishan, which had received 2,654mm of rain. The weather bureau estimated that mountainous areas in Chiayi County would receive an accumulated 2,900mm of rain, while mountains in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties would see 2,700mm of rain and Nantou and Tainan counties 2,200mm. Rainfall on Friday and Saturday alone in Kaohsiung City and County and Pingtung County was around the annual average in those areas. Average annual rainfall in Hengchun (恆春), Pingtung County, for example, is 2,017mm.

....

In Tainan City and County, running water was disconnected to 280,000 homes because the county’s Nanhua Reservoir (南化) had been contaminated as a result of the rains.

Also in Tainan County, the banks of the Tsengwen River (曾文溪) collapsed in several areas, flooding townships including Shanhua (善化), Jente (仁德), Yongkang (永康), Tanei (大內), Guantien (官田), Houbi (後壁) and Beimen (北門). Flooding in some of the townships was three stories deep.

Morakot’s rains have also wreaked havoc on public transportation and infrastructure, with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications reporting 123 damaged sections of road as of 6pm yesterday. Twenty bridges, including the Dajin (大津) and Liukuei (六龜) bridges on Provincial Highway 27, Shuangyuan Bridge (雙園大橋) on Highway 17, Sinciwei (新旗尾) and Mingtzu bridges (民族) on Highway 21, No. 1 Bridge on Highway 24 and Ciwei Bridge (旗尾橋) on Highway 28, were either damaged or washed away.... Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) express trains along the west coast could not go south of Chiayi yesterday because of the floods in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties. The TRA also suspended services on the South Link (南迴鐵路) because of flooding in Taitung’s Taimali Township and Pingtung’s Linbian Township (林邊). TRA trains on the east coast had to stop at Chishang (池上) in Taitung County after the Luyeh River (鹿野溪) broke its banks, preventing them from continuing on to Taitung City.

....

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said at a city government meeting that 81 officials, 24 lifeboats and three ambulances were headed to Tungkang (東港), Kanding (崁頂) and Chiatung (佳冬) townships in Pingtung County, and Cishan Township (旗山) in Kaohsiung County as of 10am yesterday, adding that five lifeboats would also be dispatched to Tainan. The city’s Social Affairs Bureau had also arranged for food, drinking water and thousands of towels and sleeping bags to be sent to flood victims, Chen said.
....

The Kaohsiung City Government [has] created an emergency response center to accept donations of necessities such as water, food, medicine and flashlights for flood victims across the south. Those who wish to donate items can contact the center at (886) 7 337 3375 or deliver items to Kaohsiung City Hall at No. 2 Sihwei 3rd Road, Lingya District, Kaohsiung City.

The Taiwan press reports that a mudslide has buried a village in Kaohsiung County, possibly trapping hundreds of residents. (The name of the community is Romanised variously as Shao Lin, Xiaolin and Hsiaolin.) Road conditions and severe weather make it difficult for rescue workers to reach the area. Tuesday's Taipei Times:

Hundreds of residents of Xiaolin Village (小林), Kaohsiung County, were still missing yesterday after landslides caused by Typhoon Morakot devastated the area. Rescuers said yesterday morning that at least 180 residents out of around 600 had survived the mudslides. Another 76 had been moved to safety as of yesterday afternoon.

One of the survivors, Lin Chien-chung (林建忠), told cable news channels that the village had been wiped out, including Xiaolin Elementary School, Chunghwa Telecom communications equipment and the health center. Lin said he feared most of the 600 residents had been buried alive.
....

The emergency center said that Liukuei Township’s (六龜) Tsaonan (草南) and Chunghsing (中興) villages were also feared destroyed by mudslides or floods. Reports had yet to be verified, the center said.

The Taiwan News described the situation as viewed by satellite cameras (images appeared a day later in the Taipei Times):

One of the most stunning images obtained by the Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research (CSRSR) under National Central University was the explosive expansion of the Taimali River in Taitung. The images showed that the upper stream of the river, which originally was barely more than 10 meters wide, spread to more than 800 meters as large amounts of mud were washed down the mountain by heavy rainfall.

Chang Chung-pai, an associate professor at the center, said the mudslides observed in this typhoon have been the largest on record both in terms of length and scale.


The eye of Typhoon Morakot left Taiwan on Saturday evening and made landfall in China on Sunday. On the same day residents of Japan faced deadly flash floods from Typhoon Etau, a storm brewed in the northwest Pacific.

Links to detailed news reports appear below. I will keep this list updated as events progress.
BBC: Deadly Storms sweep eastern Asia, 2009.08.10
Taipei Times: Downpour continues to pummel south, 2009.08.10
Taipei Times
: Twenty-three dead in wake of Morakot, 2009.08.11

Taipei Times
: Hundreds missing after Xiaolin mudslides, 2009.08.11

Taiwan News
: Rescue efforts intensify across southern Taiwan, 2009.08.11

Taiwan News
: Typhoon relief helicopter crashes in Taiwan's mountains, 2009.08.11

Taipei Times: Aid workers race against time; 700 found in Xiaolin, 2009.08.12
BBC: Washed away by the typhoon, 2009.08.12
Taipei Times: Survivors tell of narrow escapes and landslides, 2009.08.12
Taipei Times: Satellite images show power of natural forces, 2009.08.13
Wall Street Journal: Outcry grows in Taiwan as death toll rises, 2009.08.13
Taipei Times: Ire over government rejection of foreign help, 2009.08.13
BBC: In Pictures, Taiwan's misery, 2009.08.14
BBC: 'Devil' typhoon leaves Taiwan reeling, 2009.08.14
BBC: Hopes fade for Taiwan survivors, 2009.08.14
Wall Street Journal: With a roar, a mountain buries a village, 2009.08.15
Taipei Times: Foreign aid pours in after government eases restrictions, 2009.08.16
Taipei Times: Friends, families hold rituals for Morakot victims, 2009.08.16
Taipei Times: Experts call on government to ban risky towns, 2009.08.16
Taiwan News: U.S. sends heavy-duty choppers to Taiwan for relief work, 2009.08.17
Taiwan Headlines: Tzu Chi Foundation to build 'green' houses for typhoon victims, 2009.08.20-21
New York Times: Taiwan's president faces anger over storm response, 2009.08.23
Wall Street Journal: Dalai Lama holds services for victims, 2009.08.31
Taiwan News: Dalai Lama urges Taiwan to preserve its democracy, 2009.09.01
Video: The Dalai Lama's speech in Taiwan (in English, Chinese translation), 2009.09.01
Taipei Times: Dalai Lama moves thousands at ceremony, 2009.09.02
Taiwan Headlines: Dalai Lama contributes US$50,000 in aid, 2009.09.02
Taiwan Headlines: National mourning ceremony for typhoon victims set for Monday, 2009.09.04
New York Times: Prime minister of Taiwan quits over typhoon response, 2009.09.08

A compelling photo story by Alan Taylor has been assembled for the Boston Globe from a variety of sources. The images give a sense of the conditions now being faced by residents of Taiwan and the coastal areas of south China.

This excerpt from Taiwanese television shows a hot spring resort area in Taitung County located at a bend in the Jhihben River. The swollen river eroded its banks, washing away buildings and felling the the six-story Jinshuai Hotel.





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