Helicopters searched on Friday for a missing bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists that was travelling along a Taiwanese highway hit by massive rockslides triggered by a powerful typhoon, the premier said. Nine other people were missing after mudslides buried a temple.
Typhoon Megi, which killed 26 people and wreaked havoc in the northern Philippines earlier this week, dumped a record 45 inches (114 centimeters) of rain in northeastern Taiwan as it made its way towards China’s southeastern coast with winds above 100 mph (160 kph).
Speaking in Taiwan’s Legislature, Premier Wu Den—yih said two buses carrying Chinese tourists were on a six—mile (10—kilometer) stretch of a coastal highway in Ilan county that was hit by at least seven rockslides on Thursday night. There had been no contact with the 19 tourists aboard one bus, he said.
He said the 19 tourists on the other bus had made cell phone contact and appeared to be safe, but their Taiwanese driver and Chinese tour guide were missing.
TV news reported that a 500—yard (500—meter) stretch of the highway had collapsed.
Interior Minister Chiang Yi—hua said air force helicopters were searching for the two buses and 360 other travellers trapped by the rockslides. Those 360 travellers were not in any immediate danger, officials said.
The rockslides trapped about 30 vans, buses and cars, officials said. One of the vans was hit by a huge rock, local TV stations reported, but the 16 Chinese tourists inside escaped with no major injuries.
Nine other people in Ilan were missing after mudslides in Suao city buried a temple there, county chief Lin Tsong—hsien said. He said rescuers were using bulldozers in an attempt to extricate them.
Megi had winds of 102 mph (165 kph) and was about 280 miles (450 kilometers) southeast of Hong Kong on Friday morning, the Hong Kong Observatory said.
Megi dumped heavy rains throughout Taiwan, but Ilan, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Taipei, was the hardest hit. Authorities said more than 2,500 residents had been evacuated. Broad swaths of farmland in the county were under many feet (several meters) of water.
Earlier this week, Megi killed more than two dozen people and damaged thousands of homes in the northern Philippines.
The storm forced 55,000 Filipinos from their homes and caused about $175 million worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, disaster officials there said. On Thursday, U.S. Marine helicopters brought food and tents to isolated coastal towns, and American troops in the area for annual exercises helped deliver emergency supplies.
The main port in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong remained partially shut. Leading port operator Hongkong International Terminals stopped processing containers, a company spokesman said.
In China’s Fujian province, authorities said 161,800 people had been evacuated to safer places. Megi, which was heading toward the southern provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, was expected to hit land between Friday night and Saturday, meteorologists said.
An official in Guangdong’s Shantou city said fishermen were told to return to ports and authorities have designated some 200 buildings in the city as emergency shelters.
“This kind of strong typhoon is very rare for this season in Shantou. We are treating it as a ‘super strong typhoon’ and making our preparations accordingly,” said a relief official who only gave his surname Chen.
In Vietnam, the death toll from severe flooding in four central provinces climbed to 75, including 14 victims from a bus swept off a road by strong currents, with six passengers still missing, disaster officials said on Friday.
Though Megi bypassed Vietnam, its central region was pummelled by 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) of rain over the past week, inundating large swaths of land, submerging nearly 280,000 houses and forcing more than 170,000 villagers from their homes.