Taipei (AsiaNews) - The morning after typhoon Soulik swept through tree-lined Dunhua Road in central Taipei, municipal employees were busy sawing the trees that had been uprooted during the night and taking them away. But what could a typhoon or an exceptional weather event really do in terms of damages?
Usually, human losses are the most important aspect. Almost immediately, they are reported on TV newscasts or the Internet. However, the overall damage of a typhoon takes its toll on farming communities, on families and businesses whose livelihoods are in agriculture.
In anticipation of super-typhoon Soulik landing on the island, everything was done by the book. In the week prior to the event, the government moved 13,000 people, mostly from mountain areas, because of the danger of landslides and floods that could have buried entire villages. When it was all over, the typhoon was responsible for four deaths, two from head injury, one by drowning and one person who fell off a roof.
On Monday, government agencies like the Council of Agriculture led the way, collecting more detailed data. On Tuesday evening, the first official estimates were released with damages put at NT$ 1.15 billion Taiwanese dollars (about US$ 40 million). For a small country like Taiwan, that is a lot.
Agricultural produce took the brunt with losses exceeding a billion, whilst the fishing and livestock lost about 10 million. Agricultural facilities as well as farm equipment and machinery suffered damages worth more than a hundred million.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, two farming families in Taoyuan (northern Taiwan) were dejected by their losses.
"We worked hard in the past three months and crops were almost ready [for harvest], but they did not stand a chance," said Mr Lee (李荣 眼).
"This is how our work is! It depends on the weather. We cannot do anything about it," his wife added. "We can only be happy that no one was hurt. We are very careful about this. We were safe, but we could not protect our fruit and rice."
When asked how they plan to live in the coming months, Mr Lee sister said, "The government is offering survival subsidies and access to loans at a very low interest to get back on track. Hopefully, the harvest next fall will be abundant."
However, "We have kids to raise and to send to school, their grandparents are old and it is not easy. Luckily, we have a lot of friends who are helping us, but it is hard to find yourself in this situation overnight, after so much work."
In Hsinchu province, the mountainous area remains inaccessible after a landslide blocked the access road to the higher part of the valley.
Two bulldozers have been at work whilst employees with electrical companies have been working to restore power to villagers after two days of blackouts.
Among the buildings damaged by Soulik, there are 457 schools, for a price tag of NT$ 47 million in repairs (US$ 1.5 million).