By Joseph Yeh, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — A total number of 11 military personnel were publicly honored yesterday by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to commemorate their contributions in rescue and evacuation missions during last month’s Typhoon Megi, which devastated northeastern Taiwan’s Yilan County, leaving 12 people dead and 26 missing. “It is my greatest moment in my military career to be given the honor by the defense ministry,” said chief commander of the rescue mission, Lieutenant Tsai Kuo-ching, commander of the Army’s 871 Group, yesterday at the press conference. However, Tsai added that the honor belongs to not only himself but also to his soldiers, who were one of the first rescue groups to advance to the Suhua Highway’s 114.5-kilometer mark, a location that was struck by landslides after heavy rains brought by typhoon Megi on Oct. 21.
Tsai, leading a group of 22 special unit members and 13 engineers, arrived at the site of the landslides in Suhau Highway around midnight on Oct. 21 in the middle of strong winds and torrential rain, only hours after they received the order from his superior. He said his rescue team had climbed up and down dangerous rocky hills and cliffs in the dark night for hours, looking for survivors. “I remembered vividly a three-year-old child who was hungry and having a high fever. When I gave medicine and food to his parents, they expressed their sincere gratitude to me,” said Tsai.
It was a very touching moment for him because he believed he had fulfilled his destiny as a soldier whose main mission is to protect the nationals and save them from danger.
Chien Wei-chih, an officer of the Navy’s underwater search team, who was responsible for the evacuation of and underwater search for the missing tourists, also noted yesterday that though the mission was exhausting and extremely dangerous due to the harsh weather, he and his men had all done their best. Other military personnel who were honored yesterday include CH47 rescue helicopter pilots and Marines Amphibious Assault Vehicle-7 drivers as well as three conscripts who performed well during cleanup missions for Yilan County residents whose homes were flooded. To date, a total of 26 people – 20 Chinese and six Taiwanese — remain unaccounted for during the disaster. All 26 people were in vehicles during the typhoon and it is believed that these vehicles tumbled off a narrow coastal road into the Pacific Ocean after the road collapsed due to the destructive weather.