(BWA) – Baptists in Taiwan and around the world are assisting victims of Typhoon Morakot, which made landfall in the southern part of the island just before midnight on Aug. 7.

By Aug. 18, 126 people have been confirmed dead, but government officials expect the death toll to rise to more than 500.

Joseph Tseng Ching-En, general secretary of the Chinese Baptist Convention (CBC) in Taiwan, told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that most of the victims “were swallowed and buried by landslides.” Many, he said, were overwhelmed by a river that had flooded and overflowed its banks.

At least six Baptists have died or are feared dead. Five members from one Baptist family are confirmed dead, while another Baptist member, a police officer, went missing after trying to rescue people affected by the typhoon. His body is yet to be recovered although the patrol car he was driving has been found.

Tseng said 15 Baptist churches are in the disaster zone, most of which cannot be contacted by the convention due to blocked roads, destroyed bridges and the loss of electricity and telephone services. Churches that could be reached were badly damaged or destroyed.

The CBC has 209 churches and more than 14,000 members.

Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the BWA, is coordinating the global Baptist response and is making an initial donation of $10,000 to CBC to support relief work currently being undertaken by the Taiwan convention.

“We have been watching with concern the traumatic impact that this typhoon has wrought on your country,” Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, wrote to Tseng. “On behalf of David Coffey, the BWA president, and Neville Callam, the BWA general secretary, I send to you, your convention and your country, our deepest condolences at this time.”

Japan, the Philippines and China were also affected by the typhoon.

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