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MEGI: 400 trapped after Taiwanese rockslides

#MEGI: Taiwan dispatched helicopters Friday to rescue some 400 tourists trapped on a coastal highway by massive rockslides unleashed by the torrential rains of Typhoon Megi.

The storm, which killed 26 people and wreaked havoc when it crossed the northern Philippines earlier this week, has dumped a record 42 inches (106 centimeters) of rain in notheastern Taiwan as it makes its way toward China’s southeastern coast with winds above 100 mph (160 kph).

The helicopters were headed to a scenic highway in Ilan county on island’s northeastern coast where the travelers, including 200 tourists from China, were trapped in their vehicles but safe, Transport Minister Mao Chih-kuo said.

Three cars had tumbled into a valley but the occupants escaped injury, he said.

Soldiers were at the scene with earth-moving equipment but deep mud was hampering rescue efforts, defence Minister Kao Hua-chu said.

The mudslides had trapped about 30 vans, buses and private cars late Thursday, 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.

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Megi was generating 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 villagers had been evacuated the past two days when rains inundated much of the county.

Earlier this week, Megi slammed into the northern Philippines, killing more than two dozen and damaging thousands of homes.

The storm also forced 55,000 people from their homes in the Philippines, and caused about $175 million worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, according to disaster officials. On Thursday, US Marine transport helicopters brought food and tents to isolated coastal towns, and American troops in the area for annual exercises helped deliver emergency supplies.

In the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, the main port remained partially shut down. Leading port operator Hongkong International Terminals has stopped processing containers but may reopen its terminals later Friday, a company spokesman said.

Megi is predicted to make landfall in China’s Guangdong province Saturday or Sunday, when it is expected to have winds of 90 mph (145 kph) and then further weaken into a tropical storm as it moves inland, according to the observatory.

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.



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