Taiwan: Rescuers search for 21 tourists lost in storm

Taiwanese rescuers abseiled down a rocky ridge today as they searched for 21 Chinese tourists whose bus is believed to have tumbled off a narrow coastal road last week during a fierce typhoon that lashed east Asia.

Rescue officials said they had found body parts in the area but no definitive identifications had yet been made. Debris from the bus found along the steep ridge suggests the vehicle may have fallen off the road and into the sea more than 274m below.

Teams of Taiwanese rescuers are also using helicopters and ships to search for the passengers who were on the bus.

Relatives of the missing tourists, from the southern city of Zhuhai in China, have blamed a Taiwanese travel agency for failing to take necessary precautions when Typhoon Megi struck the island on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Taipei-based Chuang Yi Travel was not immediately available for comment.

Taiwanese officials did not close the road, which winds along the rock-strewn north east coast and is prone to mudslides.

Megi claimed at least 28 lives in the Philippines and 12 in Taiwan, including nine people who were buried alive when a mudslide obliterated a Buddhist temple in Ilan county. The county sustained a record 114cm of rain.

After leaving Taiwan, Megi dumped up to 33cm of rain on Chinese coastal villages and caused major damage to fishing boats and shellfish beds in Fujian province.

Chinese tourism to Taiwan, a former enemy, has exploded in the 29 months since the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office. An average of 2,500 mainland visitors arrive on the island every day.

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