POSTED: 10:05 a.m. HST, Oct 23, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 12:30 p.m. HST, Oct 23, 2010
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Searchers in Taiwan found mangled vehicle parts thought to be a bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists that disappeared when typhoon rains triggered massive mudslides on a mountainside highway, the transport minister said Saturday.
Landslides caused by Typhoon Megi killed nine people and buried a Buddhist temple in hardest-hit Ilan county in the northeast, where a record 45 inches (114 centimeters) of rain fell over 48 hours. Three other people drowned in their flooded homes, the Central Emergency Operations Center said.
The bus passengers were among 23 people still missing on the island after Megi, which killed 28 people in the Philippines earlier in the week.
Megi pounded southern China's Fujian province with heavy rain Saturday but was downgraded to a strong tropical storm with winds of up to 67 mph (108 kph). TV news showed flooded streets, uprooted trees and swollen waterways, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.
The searchers found the vehicle parts in a deep valley next to a coastal highway, Taiwanese Transport Minister Mao Chih-kuo said. "The bus was covered all over by thick mud," Mao said.
Next to it was the wreckage of a second bus crushed by a huge boulder, but Chinese tourists on that bus were able to escape, Mao added.
Several buses carrying Chinese tourists were on a six-mile (10-kilometer) stretch of the Ilan coastal highway that was hit by at least seven rockslides Thursday night. A 500-yard (500-meter) stretch of the highway collapsed.
Nineteen Chinese who were rescued from another bus told reporters their Taiwanese driver and Chinese tour guide helped them escape, but a boulder crushed the bus and sent them down a valley with the vehicle.
The rockslides stranded about 400 people in many vehicles, but all the other travelers had been rescued by early Saturday, Interior Minister Chiang Yi-hua said.
In China, the storm forced the cancellation of nearly 80 flights at the airport in Fujian's Xiamen city. Authorities evacuated 272,300 people from villages, according to the provincial water resources department.
News footage from Fujian showed waves crashing on the shore amid steady rain, and residents used ropes to secure street lamps and other objects that could be blown away by the wind. Workers tied down large boats in the Zhangpu port.
Earlier, Megi killed at least 28 people and damaged more than 100,000 homes in the northern Philippines. The storm also forced about 40,000 Filipinos from their homes and caused about $190 million in damage to infrastructure and crops, disaster officials said.
In Vietnam, the death toll from severe flooding in four central provinces climbed to 75, including 14 victims from a bus swept off a road by strong currents, with six passengers still missing, disaster officials said Friday.
While Megi bypassed Vietnam, the country's central region was pummeled by 4.6 feet (140 centimeters) of rain over the past week, inundating large swaths of land, submerging nearly 280,000 houses and forcing more than 170,000 villagers from their homes.
In Thailand, the government said the death toll from heavy flooding rose to 23 with some 1.3 million people affected in 30 provinces in the north, east, northeast and central regions.
Meanwhile, another storm, Cyclone Giri, was spinning in the Bay of Bengal and likely to make landfall Saturday in western Myanmar. The storm was expected to hit with winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and a tidal surge as high as 12 feet (370 centimeters).
Cyclone Nargis in 2008 killed 130,000 people in Myanmar.
Associated Press writers Anita Chang in Beijing and Denis Gray in Bangkok contributed to this report.