Giant on the move
After Taiwan’s worst storm in 50 years killed hundreds in massive mudslides last month, the government blamed the freak weather while survivors said the government’s slow response after the Aug. 7-9 storm made matters even worse.
Only recently, with reconstruction under way, have officials in the six-county disaster area begun asking what contributing factors may have caused the steep mountainsides to give way, hurling boulders and walls of mud onto riverside villages below. Nearly 770 people are presumed to have died, most of them buried alive.
Taiwan’s forestry bureau says native subtropical trees had covered most of the deadly mudslide areas of Kaohsiung County in southern Taiwan, doing more to hold mountain sides intact than to loosen them. Villagers had planted mainly bamboo, mangoes, peaches and taro on the lower hillsides. They had shunned betel nut plantations and high-mountain tea, which are common elsewhere on the island and are notorious for destablising soil for lack of deep roots, an agricultural official said.
Before the Dalai Lama spoke on the sober subjects of religion and the environment in Taiwan during a speech this week, he opened with a quip about his English.
“First thing, no grammar, no proper grammar,” the 73-year-old said with a low-pitched staccato laugh while addressing a full auditorium of residents in the southern city of Kaohsiung. “There is a danger to get misunderstandings, so I always tell you, be careful Dalai Lama’s broken English.”