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Care for Morakot survivors will go on despite end of disaster council

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The government will continue its efforts to care for survivors of 2009's deadly Typhoon Morakot, even after the special agency established to deal with reconstruction work was scheduled to be disbanded Friday upon completing its mission.

The Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Council said Friday that it has dedicated itself to helping displaced residents rebuild their homes and continue with their lives since it was set up under the Executive Yuan shortly after the storm battered Taiwan five years ago.

Permanent Houses for Displaced People

The government built permanent houses at 43 locations around Taiwan to accommodate those who were displaced by the rain, flooding and landslides, the council said.

About 12,000 survivors have chosen to live in the permanent homes, while another 8,000 preferred to stay in their old communities, the council added.

The council stressed that it has always respected the choices made by the survivors in terms of relocation in contrast to criticisms by groups such as the Millet Foundation and the Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan that have accused the government of forcing the survivors to relocate.

The natural disasters damaged the environment and left some places unsafe to live in, making relocation necessary for some, the council said.

To be able to live in the government housing, Morakot victims needed to file applications and clearly state their intentions to do so before a house would be allocated, the council explained.

Tsai Sung-yu, a representative from Xiaolin Village — one of the hardest hit areas where 462 residents were buried under a massive landslide — has expressed gratitude for the government's help and said villagers were open to sharing their reconstruction experiences with the survivors of last week's gas explosions in Kaohsiung, according to the council.

At a news conference July 25 ahead of the fifth anniversary of Morakot's onslaught, a resident from the tribal village of Rinari in Pingtung thanked the council and non-governmental groups for efforts to help survivors rebuild.

Notably, a dance troupe made up of Morakot survivors gave a performance last month in Japan's Iwate Prefecture — one of the areas devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Taivoan Dance Troupe traveled there to encourage and support survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami through dance.

Troupe leader Wang Min-liang said they were surprised to see that some in Iwate were still living in temporary housing units more than three years after the disasters, according to the council.

Villagers Get Back to Their Feet

Wang expressed gratitude for being able to move to a safe place two years after Morakot, allowing villagers to get back on their feet quickly to help others who have been through similar situations, the council added.

Over the past five years, the council has also helped residents to preserve their local culture and build villages with their own unique specialties.

While it was set to be disbanded after Friday, the council promised that the government will continue looking after residents of the new post-Morakot communities.

When Morakot ripped through Taiwan on Aug. 8, 2009, it triggered flooding and massive landslides that left 681 dead and 18 missing.

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