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Lives lost to typhoon honored in memorial service

[ 2009-09-08 11:11]     字号 [] [] []  
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Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou led a ceremony yesterday for the more than 600 killed in Typhoon Morakot last month, calling it a "permanent trauma". Ma has been under pressure for his handling of the disaster.

Ma was speaking to an audience of hundreds inside a stadium in Kaohsiung, a southern city close to communities that were severely hit when Morakot lashed the island. The typhoon inundated large areas of land and triggered massive mudslides.

"The massive flooding - the worst in 100 years - took hundreds of lives in moments. I am saddened and take the blame for it," a grim-faced Ma said in a brief speech.

"This has caused a permanent trauma in our minds. I know that no matter what compensation measures we have been trying to take, it can by no means make up for this."

A chorus sang in the stadium adorned with white flowers. Typhoon survivors, volunteer rescue workers and solemn government officials gathered to remember the hundreds of people lost in the flooding and mudslides from the devastating typhoon.

Ma, wearing a sober black suit, laid a floral wreath on the stage in front of thousands of mourners who attended the memorial ceremony.

He promised to review and consider halting development projects in the affected area to minimize damage when the next typhoon hits the island. Up to 10 typhoons strike Taiwan annually between July and October.

Typhoon Morakot killed an estimated 670 people when it slammed into Taiwan between August 8 and 9, ravaging some 40 villages.

Before the service began, Ma visited a storm-beaten village in Pingtung county. He listened patiently as the villagers lined up along a dust-covered road to ask for help in cleaning up their homes and finding new jobs, according to TV reports.

Critics blame the heavy casualties on the government's slow response to the massive natural disaster. They say authorities should have ordered residents in the area to evacuate their homes long before the storm hit. The government has also come under criticism for rejecting initial offers of foreign aid and for failing to immediately deploy troops to help with the rescue.

Opinion polls showed approval ratings of Ma plunged to below 20 percent immediately after Morakot. Even members of Ma's ruling Kuomintang have demanded a "cabinet" reshuffle, acknowledging overwhelming public complaints about government inefficiency.

The island has earmarked 100 billion New Taiwan dollars ($3 billion) for reconstruction work and has solicited help from charities and businesses to build new homes for typhoon survivors.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Lives lost to typhoon honored in memorial service

About the broadcaster:

Lives lost to typhoon honored in memorial service

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.