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Taiwan Typhoon Death Toll Expected to Reach 500

Taiwan's president says the death toll from flooding and mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot will likely exceed 500 people, in the worst storm to hit the island in 50 years.

Ma Ying-jeou told aides at a national security meeting Friday that nearly 400 people were probably buried alive when a mudslide covered the village of Shiao Lin in southern Kaohsiung county. More than 100 people have been confirmed dead due to the disaster.

Mr. Ma's government has been criticized for what many say was its slow response to the crisis. Thousands of villagers were trapped when floods and mudslides wiped out scores of bridges and roads after Morakot hit last week, dumping more than two meters of rainfall on the island.

Taipei has deployed troops to the region to rescue thousands of villagers and provide emergency aid, mainly by helicopter.

Rescue officials in Taiwan are appealing to foreign governments for large helicopters that are capable of airlifting earth-moving equipment and prefabricated houses.

Mr. Ma's Cabinet is expected to create a special budget to cover more than $3 billion in estimated damages incurred by Typhoon Morakot.

The typhoon also damaged undersea cables, disrupting Internet and telephone services to several countries in East Asia. Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom issued a statement Friday, saying it is working on restoring service.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.