Ending of search a gov’t decision: MOI

The China Post news staff

It will be up to the central government to determine when to stop search and excavation operations for the 23 people that remained missing following massive landslide on the Suao-Hualien (Suhua) Highway, according to Lee Ming-feng, deputy director of the National Fire Agency under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI).

Lee made the remarks when asked by reporters about whether and when the government may stop searching for the missing 23 people, including 19 mainland Chinese tourists and four Taiwanese people. Over the past few days, the government had stepped-up research operations along the Suhua Highway on the eastern coast that was hit by massive land and rock slides triggered by the heavy rainfall and floods caused by Typhoon Megi on Oct. 21. More military personnel and excavators joined the search and rescue operations, but they discovered only some damaged clothes and tires, with the wreckage of the tourist bus carrying 21 people including 19 Chinese tourists, one Taiwanese bus driver and one Taiwanese tour guide having to be found yet, let alone passengers aboard.

Lee said that search and excavation operations will continue on cliff slopes at 116-kilometer, 112.8-kilometer marker and 114.5-kilometer marker of the Suhua Highway, where there were responses to metal detectors.

Meanwhile, Hsu Song-yi, a deputy director of the Fire Department under the Yilan County Government, yesterday prayed to the gods at a nearby temple for helping the missing people “return home” as soon as possible.

Over the past 10 days of rescue operations, only three out of a total of 26 people missing were confirmed dead, including a female teacher identified as Liu Yun-chun, Tsai Chih-ming, driver of Hon Tai Tour Service, and Gong Yen, a female member of the 19-member tour group from Guangdong managed by Harula Tour Travel Service Co. The remaining 23 missing people included 18 Chinese tourists, the Taiwanese driver and the Taiwanese tour guide of the Harula tour group; a female tour guide of the Hon Tai-managed tour group, identified as Tian Yuan; and two Taiwanese people driving a small truck. In related news, Chou You-ching, a member of the fire department under the Taipei County Government who was injured by rocks when joining the rescue operation, is likely to have the toes of the foot amputated, according to Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. Doctors said that they will further observe Chou’s conditions for a while to see if the amputation is needed or not.