Three Taiwanese killed in rockfall in China

A representative from the travel agency tells CNA that the tour group, made up of two tour guides and 43 tourists mainly from the Theater Association of Taiwan, is on a 7-day visit to China that started Oct. 13. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – Three Taiwanese tourists were killed and two others injured in a rockfall in the Three Gorges scenic area in China on Sunday, according to the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海峽交流基金會).

The five people were among 45 people on a group tour organized by Trans Continental Travel Service Co., Ltd., a travel agency in Taipei, the SEF said in a statement.

The SEF said it had contacted its Chinese counterpart – the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits – and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) after the fatal accident occurred Sunday morning in Yichang, Hubei Province.

The SEF said it has also formed a “1015 task force” to help in the aftermath of the accident and has been trying to coordinate with the Tourism Bureau and relevant authorities in Taiwan and China to provide assistance to the victims as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, rescue crews were continuing their search for survivors of the rockfall in the Three Gorges scenic area, the SEF said.

The SEF said it will also send staff to accompany the relatives of the Taiwanese victims to China to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.

The tour group, made up of two tour guides and 43 tourists mainly from the Theater Association of Taiwan, is on a 7-day visit to China that started Oct. 13, according to the travel agency.

Two men aged 49 and 54, respectively, and a woman aged 55, were killed, by falling rocks while they were walking around the scenic site, while another two were injured, the agency said.

It said 30 members of the group have decided to continue the tour until Oct. 19 as scheduled, while another 10 have chosen to remain with the two injured – a man and a woman.

The travel agency said it will help the families of the victims to file insurance claims, which should amount to NT$3 million (US$99,539) for each of the three people who died.

Taiwan’s top official for Chinese affairs – MAC Minister Chang Hsiao-yueh (張小月) – and SEF Chairman Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) have both expressed great concern over the accident and have directed the relevant agencies to make every effort to provide the necessary assistance.

Meanwhile, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said Chinese authorities have activated a mechanism for response to emergences associated with Taiwan.

Ma also said his office will coordinate with the relevant agencies in Taiwan and China at various levels to help handle the aftermath of the accident.

Hubei has been inundated by rare autumn floods since the beginning of October as heavy rains continue to batter the central Chinese province, the China News Service reported.

More than 2.79 million people have been affected by the natural disaster, and Yichang is now a major disaster area, the report said. 

By Flor Wang, Wu Hsin-yun, Wang Shu-fen and Evelyn Kao