As powerful typhoon Morakot swept across Taiwan in an awesome display of destructive power, it brought danger and fear to aboriginal tribes in the southern section of the island.
|A helicopter prepares to take off to rescue trapped residents in Kaohsiung county of south China's Taiwan Province, Aug. 11, 2009. Helicopters rescued many residents trapped by flood and mudslide caused by Typhoon Morakot on Tuesday morning as the weather became clear. The death toll in Taiwan after typhoon Morakot swept across the island surged to 103 as of 9 p.m. Wednesday after rescuers found 32 bodies in southern Kaohsiung County, local media reported. [Chen Jianxing/Xinhua]
Pingtung county, the southernmost, has been inhabited for many years by aboriginals such as the Rukai and Paiwan.
But when Morakot, the strongest typhoon to hit the island for half a century, arrived, its torrential downpour triggered huge mud and rock slides on mountains trapping many aboriginals in their villages, destroying and damaging houses and blocking traffic from the outside world.
In order to help the stranded people, helicopters have been flying in and out of the county's affected areas since Wednesday.
The air rescue base is located at the football playground of a Wutai township school in Pingtung county. From there helicopters fly to villages such as She Shan and Yla to effect rescues.
Around the playground gathered groups of search and rescue and medical workers as well as volunteers, waiting in extreme bad weather for helicopters to provide relief services.
Whenever a helicopter showed, the workers rushed to inbound patients and took them to medical stations or rest areas. Though extremely busy, they worked in an orderly manner.
As well as the rescue workers, relatives of people trapped in the devastation also waited.
"I returned right after I heard about the disaster. My village has been cut off from water and electricity supplies and I could not contact my family. I am very worried about them," one girl said.
"My aunt is dead, and my husband and child are still trapped in their village," a woman from the Yla tribe in Wutai township in Pingtung county said after she had been brought out in a helicopter.
An old woman at a rest station said that her tribe has lost five people in the typhoon which was "too terrible".
She said her husband was still stranded in the village because he was unwilling to leave their home.
Hong Yuhong, a preacher from the Jiamu tribe, said nearly 30 families' houses had been destroyed by the typhoon.
"There are about 130 people in our tribe, and 40 of them have been rescued," Hong said,"I hope tomorrow's weather will be better so the helicopters can rescue all of them."
At 5 p.m Wednesday, helicopters had made more than 20 flights on rescue missions.
By 3 p.m. Thursday, typhoon Morakot had claimed 108 lives and injured 45, with 58 people missing, local disaster-relief authorities said.