TAIPEI, Taiwan — A mudslide touched off by a deadly typhoon buried a remote mountain village, leaving at least 400 people unaccounted for Monday, and military rescue helicopters unable to land because of the slippery ground dropped food to desperate survivors.
Typhoon Morakot slammed Taiwan over the weekend with as much as 80 inches of rain, inflicting the worst flooding the island has seen in at least a half-century.
The storm submerged large swaths of farmland in muck and swamped city streets before crossing the 112-mile-wide Taiwan Strait and hitting China, where it forced the evacuation of nearly 1 million people.
A disaster appeared to be unfolding around the isolated southern village of Shiao Lin, which was hit by a mudslide Sunday at about 6 a.m. local time — while many people were still asleep — and was cut off by land from the outside world.
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Speaking to The Associated Press, a Taiwanese police official who identified himself only by his surname, Wang, said 400 people were unaccounted for in the village. Wang said 100 people had been rescued or otherwise avoided the brunt of the disaster.
One of the rescued villagers, an unidentified middle-aged man, told police that his family of 10 had been 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 that 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 of torrential rains.
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.
In Japan, meanwhile, Typhoon Etau slammed into the western coast Monday. Twelve people were killed and 10 others were missing, police said.