108 Taiwan tourists still missing in Sichuan Province

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — 108 Taiwanese tourists travelling to China’s Sichuan Province hit by a killer earthquake remained unreachable as of press time last night, according to the latest statistics. They were among the 3,000 tourists in more than 100 tour groups from Taiwan traveling in the southwestern Chinese province where the death toll has soared to more than 12,000, caused by the devastating quake. Officials at the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top China policy decision-making body, said they have been working around the clock to locate the missing tourists.

A four-year-old boy of Taiwanese parentage, who was staying with his grandparents in Mienchu City in Sichuan was reported dead in the mishap. Another four-year-old daughter of a Yu family from Taiwan was missing, said the officials. More than 960 employees of Taipei-based MassMutual Mercuries Life Insurance Co. on a group tour to the Jiuzaigou National Park in Sichuan were all safe and sound. Executives of the company said their colleagues are on their way back to Taiwan on various routes that remain open to traffic. But there were also some Taiwan businesspeople living and working in Sichuan that have yet to be reached following the strike of the 7.9 magnitude quake, according to Yeh Ming-shui, deputy secretary-general of the semiofficial Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

Citing preliminary information acquired by TAITRA from Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, Yeh said some Taiwan businessmen, particularly those near Wenchuan, the epicenter of the tremor located some 100 kilometers from Chengdu, remained unreachable, although most Sichuan-based Taiwanese businessmen have been confirmed to have been left unharmed. TAITRA is the only agency affiliated to the government which has personnel stationed in Chengdu.

According to Yeh, there are more than 600 Taiwanese companies scattered throughout Sichuan, including offices and stores of prominent conglomerates, such as the Sogo Pacific Department Store, Master Kang food company and Giant bicycle manufacturer.

TAITRA was originally slated to lead a delegation of representatives from 23 Taiwanese enterprises to take part in an exhibition in Chengdu from May 25-28. But Monday’s earthquake has altered the situation, causing concerns about whether the fair could be held as scheduled, TAITRA officials said.

In addition, they said, it remains uncertain whether more than 10 Chinese businesses headquartered in Chengdu could participate in an international food fair in June in Taipei as planned.