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Tropical storm floods southern Taiwan, kills 13

Taiwan Tropical Storm
Taiwanese residents walk through a flooded street after Tropical storm Kalmaegi struck the area, in Gangshan, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan, Friday, July 18, 2008. Tropical storm Kalmaegi lashed southern Taiwan with torrential rains Friday, triggering flash floods and landslides. Rampaging waters killed at least seven people and washed six others away. AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tropical storm Kalmaegi churned along the Chinese coast Saturday, after leaving 13 dead in heavily populated Taiwan and its president scrambling to explain the island's apparent lack of preparedness in the face of the devastation.

President Ma Ying-jeou, faced with the first major natural disaster since his May 20 inauguration, blamed the lack of preparedness for the storm on the Central Weather Bureau, which he said provided inadequate warning to the island's residents.

The bureau said some parts of the south had recorded up to 39 inches of rain, much higher than its original prediction of up to 14 inches.

Kalmaegi has also caused agricultural damage estimated at $10.2 million, Taiwanese authorities said.

On Friday, television footage showed water pouring down a mountain road, flooding a large area of Kaohsiung county in southern Taiwan. The Disaster Relief Center said a woman was rescued from a house buried in a landslide, but her 1-year-old daughter and a brother died.

A soldier was killed after falling into a drainage ditch in Taichung, central Taiwan, the center said.

Four people drowned and four others were washed away by flood waters in Kaohsiung and Tainan, also in southern Taiwan, the center said.

A man and a woman were missing after the police motorboat that rescued them from their home overturned in flood waters in Tainan county, it said. Three rescuers were pulled from the waters unharmed, it said.

Water supplies were cut in the county for more than 650,000 households because of flooding, officials said.

Television showed firefighters using ladders to rescue several people trapped in a flooded house in coastal Yunlin county, and several drivers being rescued after hollering for help on top of their trucks in a flooded freeway in Taichung.

The storm started lashing Taiwan late Thursday. It headed away from Taiwan and toward southern China early Friday, packing winds of 52 mph, the Central Weather Bureau said.

In the Philippines, the government disaster agency said two people died earlier this week as the storm pounded the country's northern corner with rain and strong winds.

Kalmaegi is the Korean word for sea gull.