Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps Helps Flood Victims in Taiwan

Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in Taiwan, located in Taipei and led by Bishop Yoshiaki Mihama, mobilized its Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps―the only one of the kind organized overseas―in response to deadly Typhoon Morakot, which caused devastating floods and mudslides especially in southern Taiwan. A total of 92 members worked on August 12 and 13 as well as on August 15 and 16 to restore houses and public facilities in Chiayi County.

The flood disaster―which came to be known as the “8/8 Flood” as it took place on August 8―had left 141 people dead, 440 missing, and 45 injured as of August 20, reported Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior. However, the full extent of the damage is yet to be known as the army is still engaged in search and rescue work in Kaohsiung County, where mudslides wrought catastrophic damage to some villages.

Soon after the disaster took place, the mission headquarters began to gather information on the damaged areas and decided to offer relief money to the government. Under the legal name “Chinese Tenrikyo Corporation,” the mission headquarters donated 600,000 Taiwan dollars (about US$18,000) to Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior on August 11, and had \1,000,000 (about US$10,000) offered to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Osaka (a functional equivalent of a consulate general) from the funds of the Overseas Department’s International Network for Mutual Help on August 13.

The mission headquarters received information from a follower in Minxiong, Chiayi County, reporting that all the 1,400 households in Chinhsing Village were inundated by floodwaters from a nearby river. The mission headquarters decided to mobilize the corps at the request of Mr. Lo Wei-sung, the head of the village, who through the follower asked for manpower in order to restore the village. On August 12, a total of 21 corps members gathered in the devastated area, driving down by car and truck from such places as Taipei.

In the village, floodwater had even reached the second floor of houses, leaving marks clearly showing the water level. Piled up on the streets was damaged furniture, which stood in the way of cars and heavy machines. The corps based itself in Chiang Hsi Tien Church and Minxiong Mission Station, both of which are located near the village. The members worked for two days at such places as a kindergarten to remove flood-damaged equipment as well as thoroughly clean up inside and outside buildings by washing away sludge with a high-pressure pump.

On August 15 and 16, a total of 54 members took part in the second round of the disaster relief activities. Divided into small groups, the members worked to shovel mud and clean up inside and outside buildings at such places as houses of elderly people living alone, houses without enough manpower, temples, community centers, and ditches between houses. Having seen the corps members working to restore the village, one of the disaster victims said, “I was impressed that people from Tenrikyo churches kept working until they finished cleaning up our houses, even after other volunteers stopped working and left our village.” Another person said, “I really appreciate the fact that they reached out to us at a time when we were completely helpless.”

Rev. Taihei Shimizu, 47, the head of the Taiwan Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps and the head minister of Chang T’ai Church, commented: “I was worried that we would not get enough members as we decided to mobilize the corps on the same day the mission headquarters was holding an event. I am glad that the corps members worked really hard in unity of mind in such extremely hot weather. I would like to continue working to improve the corps’s ability to respond flexibly so as to provide effective help to disaster victims.”

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