China - Taiwan Province

Foreign aid arrives for Taiwan mudslide survivors

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Taipei_(dpa) _ Foreign aid began to arrive in Taiwan Friday for the survivors of typhoon-triggered mudslides, as hundreds of survivors are still trapped in mountains while hundreds more are buried in mountain valleys under tons of rocks and mud.

Israel became the first country to respond to Taiwan's appeals for foreign aid, sending water purifying and water transporting equipment, which arrived Friday night, and was immediately sent to the disaster regions in south Taiwan.

Raphael Gamzou, Israel's representative to Taiwan, said that "if Taiwan needs more, we can give more."

Singapore donated 200,000 US dollars and a shipment of food and medicine. The Vatican's embassy donated 50,000 US dollars and said Pope Benedict XVI was praying for Taiwan's flood and mudslide survivors.

Canada told Taiwan's representative office in Ottawa that it would send aid to Taiwan as soon as possible.

Also on Friday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Ron Libby, coordinator for the Disaster Assistance Support Program, to Taiwan to assess the damage and find out what help Taiwan needs.

The Foreign Ministry thanked the 59 countries, nine international organizations and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for their offer of aid and expression of concern.

One week after Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan, bringing heavy downpours and triggering mudslides and rockslides in the southern Taiwan mountains, the official casualty toll stood at 121 dead, 53 missing and 45 injured.

The death toll however could be as high as 500 as many villagers remain trapped in the mountains. In the worst-hit spot, Hsiaolin village in Kaohsiung county, southern Taiwan, some 300-350 villagers are believed buried under mud as deep as 15 metres.

Some Hsiaolin villagers asked the army to stop digging for the dead to allow the deceased to rest in peace. The villagers plan to hold a memorial ceremony Saturday and turn their mud-covered village into a memorial park.

The government has suggested that farmers in the mountain villages destroyed by Typhoon Morakot resettle elsewhere, but many villagers do not want to abandon their homes, where they have been living for several generations.

On Friday, Taiwan continued to use helicopters to evacuate survivors from mountain villages and to raise funds for disaster areas.

On Friday evening, Taiwan TV stations held two concerts to raise funds for typhoon victims. Hundreds of singers and movie stars, including US-based Chinese kung-fu actor Jet Lee and Hong Kong singers Andy Lau and Leon Lai, appeared at the concert and made donations. dpa dc jh se mga

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