China - Taiwan Province

Tzu Chi provides aid to flood victims in Central Taiwan

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In the wake of Typhoon Mindulle, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation provided emergency aid to thousands of flood victims and helped clean up their homes in central Taiwan between July 3-11, 2004.
Typhoon Mindulle landed on eastern Taiwan on the night of July 1, bringing days of heavy rainfall and triggering mudslides in several central and eastern counties including Taichung, Nantou, Changhua, Yunlin, Kaohsiung and Taitung. More than 20 people were killed and a dozen others were listed as missing.

Tzu Chi's Taichung chapter established an emergency relief center on July 3. Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, asked volunteers to help the victims in five ways simultaneously - distributing relief materials, cleaning up homes, providing emergency cash, setting up first-aid medical posts, and making plans for medium- and long-term visits to provide ongoing care for the affected residents.

During the first nine days, Tzu Chi mobilized 7,142 volunteers and provided emergency cash (equivalent to US$145) to 1,611 families. Other relief items provided by Tzu Chi during the period included 24,595 hot meals, 2,796 cases of mineral water and other beverages, 960 cases of instant noodles, canned and dry food, 1,346 cotton quilts and sleeping bags, 1,247 cases of basic living supplies and 662 sets of cleaning equipment.

To reach disaster victims during the days of flooding, Tzu Chi volunteers waded across the floodwaters, sometimes holding hands to form a human chain so as to keep firm footing despite the current. Visiting each family one by one, they personally handed out emergency cash to each family, no matter the family's financial background, because the flood left all without temporary access to cash to buy needed daily supplies.

Volunteer physicians and nurses belonging to the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) also joined the rescue and relief mission. A first aid medical post was set up at the Tungping Elementary School, Taiping City, Taichung County. Medical personnel made home visits to see patients who were unable to come to the medical post.

On several occasions, Master Cheng Yen visited the flood-stricken areas to comfort the victims and encourage the volunteers. On a visit to Tungshih Elementary School on July 5, the Master told the victims taking shelter there, "Being safe and sound is the most important thing. If you need any relief supplies, just go ahead and let the Tzu Chi volunteers know."

Some of the Tzu Chi volunteers were also disaster victims themselves. Yet, they chose to leave behind their own flooded homes to join the relief effort. When asked why, one such volunteer, experienced Tzu Chi commissioner Yao Shu-ou, replied, "When water started coming into my house, I myself felt a sense of panic - so I could just imagine what the other flood victims had to be feeling. So, I felt that at such a time, helping others was top priority." After helping to clean out other people's homes, these volunteers had to return home to clean out their own mud-caked homes.

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