Tropical storm slams South Taiwan

Vehicles are seen partially submerged in floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Kong-rey.

TAIPEI - Many residents in Chiayi, Yunlin, Tainan and Kaohsiung have suffered from floods brought by Tropical Storm Kong-Rey's heavy rains, and the nation's agricultural losses totaled around NT$100 million (S$4.26 million).

Rains fell heaviest at noon yesterday, with total rainfall amounting to over 800 millimeters in Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pintung, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said. The conditions prompted the CWB to caution residents living on ground floors to be aware of severe flooding.

Taiwan was clear of the storm by yesterday afternoon as Kong -Rey picked up speed and made its way northward to Japan. The land warning was lifted by 8:30 p.m.

According to the CWB, there will be less rain in Taiwan's west coast, but residents living in South Taiwan will still encounter heavy rainfall, and Northern Taiwan will see short cloudbursts. Four-meter-high waves were seen off Taiwan's southwestern coast and around Southern Taiwan.

Despite farmers in Yunlin braving the rain to harvest vegetables by hand, agricultural losses have totaled around NT$100 million as of 5 p.m. yesterday, said the Agriculture and Food Agency.

Chiayi suffered the worst of all of Taiwan's farming counties with a whopping NT$66,290,000. These figures are the accumulated loses resulting not only from Kong-Rey's effects but also Tropical Storm Trami's impact on the island, which hit earlier this month.

Sudden Suspension of School and Work

Chiayi City announced the suspension of school and work early yesterday morning, but many residents had set out even earlier to get to school and offices on time. This led to a number of complaints regarding the belated suspension.

According to many residents, Chiayi resembled an enormous swimming pool, with many people and vehicles stranded on the roads. A nursing home and many local buildings were flooded as well - the residents of which were rescued by the Chiayi Fire Department in life rafts.

Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) headed to the heavily flooded Xinhua District at 9 a.m. yesterday, and was blasted by a local resident as Tainan was not part of the school-work-suspension. The resident asked heatedly, "How are you even the mayor?"

Lai replied that rainfall levels in Tainan had not yet reached the government's standard for suspending school and work, adding that the rainfall had decreased. The Tainan City Government, nonetheless, announced a halt of classes and work at 11 a.m.

Many residents in Xinhua have fled to the second floors of their homes to avoid the one-floor-high flooding. The local fire department dispatched life rafts to rescue the disabled, the elderly and children from the flooded homes.

Kaohsiung districts Gangshan, Ciaotou, Alian and Tianliao also fell victim of severe flooding, with blocked roads and landslides in Gangshan.

Local Governments Slammed for Slow Response

Interior Minister Lee Hung-yuan (李鴻源) spoke harshly of several local governments' emergency response to the storm and the floods it caused yesterday, saying that they were not proactive enough. Lee especially criticised Chiayi Government.

Chiayi Government official Hsu Shu-fen responded to Lee's criticism, saying that Chiayi County had not been listed as a dangerous area in the past two days, but the government was in full control of all the damage caused by the heavy rainfall and have been handling flood-recovery projects.

"We can only say 'Thank you' to Minister Lee's criticism," said Hsu.

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