Typhoon Toll Hits 500 as Taiwanese Are Buried Alive

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2009 2:28 AM CDT
A helicopter flies over a mudslide affected area of Shiao Lin village in Kaohsiung county, southern Taiwan.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Flooding and mudslides caused by Typhoon Morakot killed over 500 people in Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou said today in the country's first firm estimate of casualty figures. Some 400 people are believed to have been buried alive in a single village, the BBC reports. The military has now reopened a road into the worst-hit district, but officials believe nobody trapped since Monday's mudslides has survived.

Thousands of Taiwanese troops have been moving into the affected areas on helicopter and by foot as part of a massive rescue operation to save thousands of stranded people. In one area, survivors had to be hauled 100 feet by cable over a raging river where a bridge had been washed out. Ma has come under heavy criticism for his response to the disaster, with many saying lives could have been saved if the rescue effort had been mobilized faster.