A break in the clouds for typhoon-hit Taiwan: 1,000 survivors found

Villagers were being ferried to safety Wednesday, though heavy rains disrupted rescue efforts. A three-man crew died Tuesday when their helicopter crashed.

Pichi Chuang/Reuters
People from landslide-affected villages run out of a Chinook CH-47 military helicopter at Chishan evacuation center, after they were evacuated following Typhoon Morakot, in Kaohsiung county, Taiwan, on Wednesday.

In the grim aftermath of Typhoon Morakot, Taiwan saw some good news Wednesday: Nearly 1,000 people feared dead in three remote villages were found alive and being evacuated to safety.

The typhoon, which also hit the Philippines and China over the past week, struck Taiwan the hardest – it's one of the island's worst typhoons in 50 years. The official death toll stands at 63, but hundreds more are missing and feared dead as mudslides have destroyed entire villages, most of them in southern Kaohsiung County. And heavy rain is disrupting rescue efforts: Three men assigned to airdrop supplies over a remote village were killed Tuesday when their helicopter crashed.

Survivors – including 500 in Min Tzu, 200 in Chin He, and 270 in Shiao Lin – were being evacuated to the town of Cishan, a makeshift hub of rescue efforts, though only a few dozen Army helicopters were able to transport them. (Click here to see pictures of the rescue effort from BBC.) Some reports cited residents' frustration with what they saw as unnecessarily slow rescue efforts.

Lin Dong-wen, a survivor from the village of Namahsia, told Reuters Wednesday that he was relieved to have gotten out. "I have to say I feel pretty good to be alive," he said. "If I had been left there any longer, I wouldn't have made it. I saw the mudslide coming."

"It was really huge, and I passed out," he said. "When I awoke, there was mud all over and I climbed out of it."

Entertainers from Taiwan and Hong Kong have pitched in to fundraise for relief efforts. Some 200 stars will participate in a donation drive Friday, taking pledges over the phone.

Typhoon Morakot has cost an estimated 7.2 billion Taiwan dollars ($220 million) in agricultural damage.

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