FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES Tens of thousands of rail passengers were delayed by storm damage to tracks or electric lines, while 5,000 people were evacuatedBy Shelley Shan, Lee I-chia and Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff reporters
(The area surrounding a building in Taipei City’s Wenshan District is covered with mud and debris yesterday after a landslide caused by Monday night’s torrential rain. No injuries or fatalities were reported from the slide.)
Northern parts of the nation were pummeled by torrential rain yesterday, causing local governments to make hurried announcements to cancel school and work. Five people have been killed and four injured since the rain began over the weekend, officials said.
Heavy rain brought by a stationary front and southwesterly monsoon first hit the center and south of Taiwan over the weekend. Heavy downpours gradually expanded to the north yesterday as the frontal system moved northward.
Statistics from the Central Emergency Operation Center showed flooding in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County and Pingtung County. About 5,000 people in nine cities and counties were evacuated, with 1,400 staying in shelters.
The Ministry of National Defense said it had helped evacuate nearly 2,000 people from disaster-prone areas in the past two days and will continue assisting people affected by the torrential rain.
“The military is now well prepared to engage in rescue work at any time,” ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) told a press conference.
In response to flooding in the north, Lo said the military was on standby to provide relief assistance.
The military was also set to help evacuate residents in areas likely to be hit by floods and mudslides, as well as assist with clearing mud and rocks from the roads. It also has a military camp in Greater Kaohsiung ready to take evacuees.
To provide immediate help, the ministry has more than 47,000 personnel ready for relief assistance, one of the military’s core missions.
The Council of Agriculture said 411 rivers were placed on red alert for mudflows and 416 rivers were on yellow alert.
Yesterday afternoon, Premier Sean Chen (陳?) ordered the evacuation of residents in Namasiya District (那瑪夏), Greater Kaohsiung, when he inspected flooded areas in the south.
Chen issued the evacuation order as he learned that a barrier lake caused by piles of rocks upstream of the Cishan River (旗山溪) could burst at any moment.
About 393 people in Minzu Village (民族), Minchuan Village (民權) and Minsheng Village (民生) were relocated to shelters in a hall and an elementary school.
Chen inspected Highway No. 24 between Sandimen Township (三地門) and Wutai (霧台) in Pingtung County, which recorded the highest rainfall in recent days.
Sandimen Township Mayor Pan Sheng-fu (潘勝富) called on Chen to appropriate funds for Dawen Village (達文) and Dalai Village (達來), two villages which were severely damaged by Typhoon Morakot in 2009.
The heavy rain has also disrupted transportation. EVA Airways Corp’s (EVA, 長榮航空) departure control system at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport stopped operating after rain flooded the server room at EVA’s building in Nankang (南崁), Taoyuan County, delaying 24 departures. A Japan Airlines aircraft parked on the ramp was also affected as water rose nearly to its engines.
About 30,000 Taiwan Railway Administration passengers were delayed as two rail sections were covered by debris from landslides and flood.
Operations on the Taiwan High Speed Rail between Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung were suspended for almost six hours after electrical cables became entangled with a large vegetable net that had been blown onto the tracks.
About 35,000 passengers were affected by the delays.
TV footage showed a public bus driver making his rounds in Banciao District (板橋), New Taipei City, even though the streets were flooded with water.
While the Central Weather Bureau had issued a torrential rain alert to residents in northern Taiwan on Monday night, many appeared unprepared for the massive rainfall.
“I have lived here for more than 10 years and I have never seen such a heavy rain before,” a man in Dayuan Township (大園), Taoyuan County, said in a TV news interview.
A man in Tucheng District (土城), New Taipei City, said the water came into his home so fast he did not have time to grab any personal belongings.
In Hsinchu County, the flood from a gutter in Hukou Township (湖口) destroyed 30 tombs in a public graveyard, causing the remains to float in the gutter.
The bureau said rain in northern Taiwan was expected to ease in the afternoon today, but rain in the center and south would not let up until Friday.
The bureau said Tropical Storm Guchol formed yesterday, with its center located 2,750km off the southeast coast of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻) in Pingtung County. It was moving northwesterly at a speed of 19kph.
The bureau will be able to determine if the storm will affect Taiwan today or tomorrow, it said.
Agricultural damage since the weekend had reached NT$144.72 million (US$4.83 million), the Council of Agriculture said.
The five localities with the most severe damage were Taoyuan County (NT$66.07 million), Nantou County (NT$17.41 million), Pingtung County (NT$15.17 million), Greater Kaohsiung (NT$13.51 million) and Chiayi County (NT$11.12 million).
The council said the total estimated crop damage reached NT$131.87 million and 7,411 hectares of damaged area, including 1,096 hectares of non-arable land and 5,657 hectares of rice paddies.
The majority of crops damaged have been rice plantings beaten down by heavy rain or affected by flooding, the council said. Crops of Chinese white cabbage, papayas and watermelon, tomatoes and melons have also suffered damage, it said.
The council also said the damage to fowl and livestock was estimated at NT$3.92 million, mainly from the loss of about 60,000 chickens and 300 pigs in Taoyuan County.