Relief goods continue pouring in from abroad

Monday, August 17, 2009
The China Post news staff and the CNA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Relief goods continued to pour into Taiwan from abroad yesterday, while the United States is dispatching two heavy-lift helicopters, one of which is expected to arrive today to carry large crane excavators to the flood-ravaged area to help re-open blocked routes of transportation.

Hundreds of people are believed to remain marooned more than a week after Typhoon Morakot lashed Taiwan with record-breaking torrential rains, triggering massive landslides engulfing their remote villages.

An Emirates Airlines jetliner touched down at Taoyuan International Airport early in the morning with a batch of shelter boxes from the United Kingdom.

The shipment, which will be delivered to the disaster area, were donated by Britain's Shelter Box Trust, administered by the Helston-Lizard Rotary Club in Cornwall.

The shelter boxes contain a 10-person tunnel tent, 10 sleeping bags, and accessories including a multi-fuel cooker, water purifier, a spade and rope.

Taiwan's China Airlines airlifted a shipment of emergency supplies from Australia.

Richard Mathews, Australia's deputy representative in Taipei, handed over to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official the shipment of 200,000 water purification tablets, 5,040 buckets for treating water, 100 sanitizer spray packs that hold disinfectant and insect repellent. Alice Cawte, Australian representative in Taipei, presented the US$168,600 worth of water purification and disinfectant supplies at the Central Emergency Operation Center at noon.

Ma Chih-kuo, minister of transportation and communications who commands the center, accepted the donation on behalf of the government.

The Red Cross Society of Taiwan will help deliver the sanitation supplies.

Cawte said the Australian government hopes the emergency supplies will allow flood victims to enjoy clean drinking water and fight water-borne diseases.

A U.S. C-130 transport arrived at Tainan Air Force Base in the afternoon to deliver 120 rolls of plastic sheeting that can be used to make temporary shelter for victims of Taiwan's worst flood disaster in history.

The giant military transport aircraft flew in from Okinawa to airlift 15,200 pounds of plastic sheeting, a Ministry of National Defense official said.

It was the first U.S. military aircraft to have arrived in Taiwan after the United States cut off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979.

With normalization of relations between Washington and Beijing, the United States withdrew its military assistance advisory group and deactivated its Taiwan Defense Command. The mutual defense treaty between Taiwan and the United States was terminated at the end of the year.

The unloading took only four minutes, and the C-130, which touched down at 2:45 p.m. took off for Okinawa after a stay of half an hour.

At least one of the two U.S. CH-53 choppers will arrive in Taiwan today, said the MND official. “It will arrive to assist in relief work,” he added.

The helicopter will be carried aboard an amphibious transport dock ship, known as a landing platform dock, to waters off southern Taiwan, the official said. It will then fly to Tainan Air Force Base.

Asked when the helicopter will arrive, American Institute in Taiwan press officer Christopher Kavanagh said “the mission is in progress.” Details have yet to be confirmed, he added.

The arrival of U.S. military helicopters, though on a humanitarian mission, may rattle some nerves at the time when Beijing announced the People's Republic of China is ready to provide even larger choppers.

Officials in Taipei kept mum on the Chinese offer of the service of Russian-made heavy-lift helicopters, currently the world's biggest, which Chinese rescuers used during the great earthquake of Sizhuan last year.

When Washington and Beijing normalized relations, Deng Xiaoping made “the interference by a foreign country” in Taiwan one of the conditions for the People's Liberation Army to attack the island. Another condition was when Taiwan built atomic combs.

Altogether 60 countries, the European Union and at least 19 international and non-governmental organizations have contributed money to Taiwan's relief efforts.

The Americans are also sending Agency for International Development representatives to Taiwan to assess what extra aid is needed. “We have been looking at what materials are available and what kind of services we may render to meet Taiwan's needs,” Kavanagh told the Central News Agency.

Singapore was the first country that sent relief goods to Taiwan from abroad on Thursday.

The tropical rainstorm left in its wake at least 124 people killed and 56 others missing. The death toll does not include more than 300 people believed to have been buried alive in remote mountain villages.

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