Taiwan: Stories of the survivors from Typhoon Morakot






A legend says that we will become stars after death so that we can look after our beloved ones. After the 921 Earthquake in 1999, when we see stars twinkling in the night, we know that every star has its own heart-breaking story. — Requiem for the 921 Earthquake

Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan on 8 August. The heavy rain it brought to Taiwan has caused serious damage: Hundreds of people were buried by the typhoon-spawned mudslide engulfed in Hsiaolin village. In central and southern Taiwan, thousands of people were trapped in their villages because of floods or landslides. In eastern Taiwan, houses were swept away by the rain-swollen river and thousands of people were evacuated.

Survivors from the mudslide-engulfed Hsiaolin village talked about what happened during the Typhoon:

黃金寶和九鄰壯丁從七日晚就徹夜守望,近六點時,洪水以迅雷 不及掩耳之勢席捲而至,大水一下淹到腰部,黃金寶…立即高聲叫喚親友避難,四十三人中,有九位小孩、兩位中風病患、一位孕婦。逃難時,黃金寶聽到巨響…身旁的村民驚呼:「崩山啊!」整個小林社區剎那間就不見了。

Jing-Bao Huang and nine other strong men from the neighborhood kept awake over night on 7 of August. Around six in the morning (on 8 of August), the flood came suddenly and submerged everything within a few minutes. The water was to our waist level. Jing-Bao Haung…yelled out loud to his relatives to evaculate. Among the 43 people who ran out of the village, there are nine children, two patients, and one pregnant woman. When they were running out of the village, Jing-Bao Huang heard a thunder-like sound…villagers beside him shouted, ‘It's landslide!’ The whole Hsiaolin village was engulfed and disappeared.

On 11 of August, survivors from Hsiaolin villages were eager to go back and find their relatives. Sharplin, a reporter wrote in her blog:

一大早, 旗山國中早已擠滿心急如焚的家屬…小林村的家屬們好幾度在直昇機要降落時衝往操場…我問家屬怎麼了, 他們說, 是因為昨天有人答應, 要讓他們當中有人可以坐直昇機回去看, 再回來跟其他人講, 可是今天一直等一直等, 都沒人鳥他們.

In the early morning, Chishan junior high school was crowded with anxious relatives of Hsiaoling villagers…These people ran to the playground whenever a helicopter arrived…I asked them why. They said they were told that some of them could get into a helicopter and fly to the village in order to report back the situation. Nevertheless, they have waited for the whole day and no one notice them.

15 of August is the seventh day after the landslide. It is an important day for the dead in Taiwanese traditional religion. Survivors from Hsiaolin village and relatives of missing villagers returned to their village to hold religious ceremony for the dead. Avant went to Hsiaolin village with them.


Standing at the spot where Hsiaolin village was used to be, I could not see any man-made object: no building wreckage, no car parts, and no articles for daily use. All I saw were huge rocks, mud, and driftwoods! I could not hear sounds of televisions, no singing, nor talking. Nothing. The Hsiaolin village has fallen into deadly silence.

一些罹難者的家屬拿著紙錢和香,渡過惡水回到村子祭拜不幸罹難的家屬。他們依著對面的山形,約略找出家的位置後,跪拜亡魂並聲聲呼喚:阿爸!阿母!阮ê心肝囝啊!在一片死寂,只有土石和漂流木的山谷中,他們不停的呼喊著:「阿母恁緊出來喔!」、「恁有聽著無?」、 「恁緊轉來喔!」……..

Relatives of the victims walked across the rivers to go back to the village. They brought incense papers and sticks as offerings to the dead. By the landscape of the hills, they located their home. They bowed and shouted: ‘Dad!’ ‘Mom!’ ‘My beloved children!’ In the deadly quiet valley with only mud, rocks, and driftwoods, they kept calling, ‘Mom, come back to me!’ ‘Do you hear me?’ ‘Come back to me!

After this devastating typhoon, 452 riverside areas in 11 counties were announced to be in ‘red alert,’ and 328 areas in 129 villages in 12 counties were announced to be in ‘yellow alerts.’ The residents in the red-alert area should be evacuated immediately. However, not all of them were willing to leave. Chyng said:


The residents said many seniors in the villages are not willing to be evacuated…I asked her why, F told me,’ they said, “my family has gone, so why should I go?”’

In the southern Taiwan, many villages were still submerged by floods. shuchuan went to some villages there on 12 of August and reported,


When I walked into the Wenfeng and Yanfeng village in Jiadung township, which are close to the sea, water level was up to my thigh. There was furniture, glasses, different kinds of trash, and a huge Epinephelus in the water. All houses were filled with mud. Most people were gone. Even the military cannot access the villages.


In Linbian and Jiadung township, rotten odor of dead animals and mud mixed with the evening air. Most of the people had left. People who chose to stay were cleaning up their home with a flashlight in their hands. Some were having tea in front of their house. A resident, Hseng-Hseng Chang said, ‘no one dares to sleep.’

Taitung County in eastern Taiwan was also suffered from flooding. Apophoto went to Taitung County and reported the conditions in his blog.


The flood destroyed route nine and the railroad. Therefore, for the area south to Taimali, there was no road connecting to the outside world. Jingfeng, Daren, and Dawu were cut off from the outside world now. Those twenty thousand people trapped in these villages could only rely on the supply dropped by helicopters.


Jialang village was hit by Typhoon Haitang not long ago, and more than ten houses were swept away at that time. The residents learned the lesson and prepared to leave before the flood. It is fortunate that not many people were hurt this time. Nevertheless, many people have spent their life time on their houses, and now they could only watch them swept away by the swollen river with tear.

The survivors are heart-broken, so many people try to cheer them up and help them to rebuild their home. A charity concert “Sing for Home” was held in Taipei on 15 of August. Here is the lyrics of one of the song:

也許有一天 有一天能跟隨你的腳步

踏上遙遠的 回家的路

回到老家 拿回泥土

還我土地 重建家園 就是我啊

Maybe someday I will follow your steps

Follow the road and go back home

Go back home and hold the earth

Hold the earth and rebuild my home.

This is me.


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