All fourteen tourists stranded in Sichuan to return today

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — After a series of setbacks, all 14 members of a Taiwanese tour group stranded in the earthquake-stricken Chinese province of Sichuan are scheduled to return to Taoyuan International Airport at 7:00 p.m. today, aboard the same charter flight offered by Taiwan’s Red Cross Society flying a 30-member rescue team back to the island, according to Yao Ta-kuang, chairman of the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China (ROC). Yao said a mainland Chinese military helicopter carried the last three of the 14 Taiwanese tourists in question to Chengdu at 5:27 p.m. yesterday from a quake-hit village of Chi Pan Kuo, Maoxhian, two days after another 11 members were flown to Chengdu. Among the three was Chen Chien-chin, leader of the group. He told reporters, “I have done what I should do — bring all the members to a safe place, and send them home safe and sound.”

“I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to the Chinese authorities for all their assistance. After we return to Taiwan, we will still do our best to help quake-stricken victims rebuild their homes,” Chen told a Central News Agency reporter in a phone call from Chengdu.

The tourists had been lifted by Chinese military helicopters to Chengdu from Maoxian, one of the counties close to the epicenter of the devastating 7.9-magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province, killing more than 30,000 people as of Sunday and leaving thousands more injured or missing.

The tour group was traveling in Maoxian when the killer earthquake struck at 2:28 p.m. May 12, causing them to lose contact with travel agencies and their families in Taiwan.

It was not until early Saturday that group leader Chen Chein-chin was able to contact Taiwan by telephone to confirm that all members of the group were safe.