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Indigenous Catholic Village Evacuated As Typhoon Aere Drew Near

Updated: September 01, 2004 05:00 PM GMT
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Several Catholic-majority indigenous villages had to be evacuated when Typhoon Aere, Taiwan´s fiercest storm in 20 years, zeroed in on northern Taiwan.

The Ministry of the Interior reported on Aug. 30 that 12 people died, 17 were missing and 86 injured in the storm.

Bishop Luke Liu Hsien-tang of Hsinchu told UCA News on Aug. 31 that most of the 1,000 people evacuated from Ching Chuan village, located in Wu Feng township, are Catholics of the Atayal tribe. The whole village virtually "moved" 20 kilometers to escape Typhoon Aere, Hsinchu´s most severe storm in two decades, the bishop said. Mountain villages such as Ching Chuan were hardest-hit due to mudslides caused by the storm.

Jesuit Father Gerardo del Valle, 95, stationed at Christ Our Savior Church in Wu Feng, told UCA News that conditions in Ching Chuan are "very bad" but he is safe in Wu Feng, 60 kilometers southwest of Taipei.

Bishop Liu recalled that a group of Fu Jen Catholic University students who were in Chien Shih township´s Hsinluan village for a summer program escaped just before a landslide blocked the road. Chien Shih, 18 kilometers east of Wu Feng, and Ching Chuan are both part of his diocese.

Jesuit Father Aquilino Miguelez, 87, was the last to leave Hsinluan village because he insisted on staying until all the villagers left, the bishop said. Father Alfonso Arcay, regional superior of the Society of Jesus in Taiwan, told UCA News on Sept. 1 that Father Miguelez did not want to leave the village at all, but the Jesuit superior convinced his elderly confrere he had to get out by rescue helicopter lest he burden others.

Despite the inconveniences elderly missioners endure in the mountainous region, Father Arcay pointed out, they have been generally unwilling to leave their mission stations for any reason. Noting that some have been there for more than 50 years, he said that asking them to leave is like "killing them."

The Jesuits met on Aug. 30 to discuss how they could help people affected by the typhoon. A three-person team was set up to aid such people and the team has already set out to work with the diocese and lay catechists.

Bishop Liu pointed out that after villagers moved to a vacant old-age home and a military camp in Hsinchu city for temporary shelter, Church workers have had to locate Catholics before identifying their needs.

The Sunday Mass collection taken up on Aug. 29 in all parishes in Hsinchu diocese has been designated for disaster relief, the bishop said.

Theresa Chang Te-lang, a lay catechist, told UCA News on Aug. 31 that the typhoon had caused mudslides in many places, damaged numerous roads, and cut water and electricity supplies in some areas. According to Chang, the villagers are now living on supplies that have been airdropped to them.

Another laywoman who helps at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Chailo village, part of Chien Shih township, told UCA News on Sept. 1 the road in that area was damaged by the typhoon but people can now get through again.

She also said that some people from a neighboring village have taken shelter in Catholic and Protestant churches in her township because the foundations of their houses in the village had sunk.

Taiwan´s Central Weather Bureau is closely watching the path of newly formed Typhoon Songda. However, the bureau says it will take at least five days to determine if that new storm system will affect the island.

END

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