Date of this Version
August 12, 2009 in the China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
The people of southern Taiwan are suffering the ravages of the worst flooding to hit the island in 50 years. This tragedy was brought about by Typhoon Morakot, which combined with a tropical depression near the Philippines to produce a blob of tropical moisture nearly 1,000 kilometers in diameter that dumped between 6-7 FEET of rain on Taiwan’s southern regions from August 7-9, 2009, with the most severe rainfall occurring on August 8 (Taiwanese Father’s Day or 八八(爸爸)節). The resulting floodwaters and mudslides have toppled buildings and buried entire villages. Current casualty figures stand at 103 dead and 45 injured, with hundreds of other people unaccounted for (some reports claim that the authorities have begun to acquire 2,000 body bags). Thousands of other people are homeless.
The areas that have been worst affected encompass the mountains of Nantou, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung counties, including many villages that my research assistants and I visited while doing fieldwork for my book about the Ta-pa-ni Incident. Their inhabitants are in many ways least prepared to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. Most are poor or lower middle class wage earners, entrepreneurs and agriculturists, who struggle to scrape out a living from cash crops like bananas, betel nuts, and taro, most of which have been destroyed. Others have profited from the tourism industry, especially hot springs hotels, but these have been washed away. They are also an ethnically diverse group, including numerous Hoklo descendents of migrants from Fujian, but also sizeable percentages of Hakka, Plains Aborigines, and Mountain Aborigines. Through the years, these men and women have struggled to overcome the ravages of natural and man-made calamities, and I have never ceased to be amazed by the inner strength they have shown in coping with intense adversity, as well as their willingness to move forward despite the odds against them.