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Typhoon Leaves 49 Dead in Its Wake on Taiwan

July 31, 2001|From Associated Press

HUALIEN, Taiwan — Tropical storm Toraji whirled into southern China today after it swept through Taiwan at typhoon strength, killing 49 people and leaving 157 missing in mudslides and raging waters that swept away cars and houses.

In the storm's wake, families of the missing sobbed and waited anxiously as soldiers climbed over logs, rocks and other debris and dug in the mud in the east-central county of Hualien.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian visited the town of Kuang Fu, where 23 people died and nearly 30 people were missing. A group of victims--exhausted and sunburned from looking for relatives--surrounded Chen, and a crying woman clung to him, pleading for help.

Hualien and the mountainous central county of Nantou were the worst hit areas in Taiwan after Toraji slammed into the island early Monday and swept across into the Taiwan Strait. After weakening to a tropical storm, it hit China's Fujian province early today. No damage was immediately reported.

In Nantou, a region devastated by an earthquake two years ago, chocolate-colored water flooded the narrow streets. Television reports showed palm trees that had been ripped out of the ground by high winds. Several homes were half buried in mud, and cars were covered up to their windshields.

Earlier, in the capital, Taipei--about 125 miles to the north--the normally congested streets were empty during morning rush hour as banks and government offices, including the stock market, were closed.

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture estimated that damage to land and livestock could reach $4 million.

Toraji was the sixth tropical storm to hit the island this year.

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