700 Taiwan aborigines trapped after landslides
Taipei (AFP) Sept 9, 2010
About 700 aborigines were trapped in a remote Taiwan village after heavy rains brought by tropical storm Meranti triggered landslides, as weathermen issued a warning against the storm.
Meranti dumped over 350 millimetres (14 inches) of rain over the past 24 hours in Chinfeng, Taima and Tajen township in southeast Taiwan's Taitung county, an area still reeling from last year's devastating Typhoon Morakot.
"Since Wednesday, rain has kept falling in the area," Hsu Yu-chang, an official at the Taitung county government, told AFP.
The downpour caused landslides, cutting off a key road and isolating 700 villagers mostly belonging to an aboriginal tribe, Hsu said, adding they did not face any immediate risks.
The county government has evacuated more than 500 villagers from the area and ordered some schools and offices in the county to be closed, rescuers said.
The moves came after the Central Weather Bureau issued a warning against the storm, urging residents to take precautions as the weather system could bring severe downpours as well as flooding and landslides.
The warning was especially directed at residents of Penghu, an island group in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, and Kinmen, another archipelago near southeast China's Fujian province.
The two island groups sit on the storm's forecast route, the bureau said.
At 08:00 GMT, Meranti was about 130 kilometres (85.8 miles) south-southwest of Penghu, it said.
It was moving north-northwest at speed of 17 kilometres an hour and may make landfall in Fujian Friday, according to the bureau.
"Although the storm is not expected to move straight towards Taiwan, it may bring strong winds and heavy rains, and residents must not let down their guard," an official at the bureau said. "Heavy rains could spark flash floods and landslides."
Typhoon Morakot dumped a record 3,000 millimetres (120 inches) of rain on Taiwan last year, causing huge mudslides and killing more than 700 people.
earlier related report
"Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster -- already one of the largest the world has seen -- is still getting bigger," U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said Wednesday.
She is on a 3-day tour of the province of Sindh, where more than 16,750 square miles are under water and nearly half a million homes have been destroyed.
The United Nations says that the death toll in Pakistan from the floods, which began at the end of July, stands at more than 1,750 and more than 1.8 million houses are categorized as either damaged or destroyed.
"With 21 million people affected across Pakistan this cannot be treated as just another crisis -- it is an immense and still unfolding catastrophe," said Amos in a statement.
Just during the last few days, 40 villages in Sindh were flooded, said Amjad Jamal of the World Food Program, IRIN, the news service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports.
Also severely affected are the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan.
"The concerns people expressed to me were mostly about problems we can address such as malaria, their children not getting enough to eat, skin diseases and insufficient shelter," Amos said. "People are also worried about their futures. For many of them, even when the waters recede, they will have nothing to go back to."
There are still scores of marooned villages across Pakistan where no assistance has been received in more than a month, IRIN reports. Relief agencies attribute the void to a combination of geography, the tremendous scale of the disaster and the play of local politics.
Out of the 8.5 million people identified to be in need of shelter in Pakistan, 1.3 million have been helped so far, said Saleem Rehmat of the International Organization for Migration.
"Access and resources, including manpower, remain a huge issue," he said.
So far $294 million -- 64 percent -- of the $460 million requested by the United Nations and its partners for the Pakistan initial flood emergency response plan has been received.
"The humanitarian community has so much to offer here. We can prevent a lot of needless suffering but only if our operations on the ground are scaled up properly. I am going to have to ask our supporters to dig deeper as we need a lot more resources," Amos said.
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