Typhoon Forces Chip Maker ASE to Truck Water to Factories

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Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) has been forced to truck water to its chip factories in the southern city of Kaohsiung after Typhoon Morakot muddied up local water supplies, making them difficult to use.

The world's largest chip packaging and testing company, which serves customers including mobile chip giant Qualcomm, Freescale and Japan's NEC, says it started trucking water to its factories early enough to stave off any problems. The majority of its factories, around 60 percent to 70 percent, are located in Kaohsiung, making the problem potentially serious unless water returns to normal in city reservoirs.

"The reservoirs are too muddy so the intake to the water system has been reduced," said Freddy Liu, a vice president and spokesman for ASE. "It hasn't affected our operations at all."

ASE specializes in testing chips for defects and packaging them in protective casings, the final part of the chip manufacturing process.

Heavy rains from Morakot caused flooding in several districts of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city after Taipei, as well as surrounding areas. Reservoirs for the city have been silted up by mud slides caused by the heavy rains, as well as the churning from heavy winds.

The city has already instituted a water rationing scheme whereby water is turned on one day and off the next in some districts, according to a notice on the Kaohsiung City government's Web site. The notice asks residents in the north Kaohsiung districts of Zuoying and Nanzih to store water in anticipation of a 24-hour water shut-off starting at 2 p.m. Friday.

A city official contacted by phone said it was too difficult to determine when the reservoir levels might return to normal because muddied streams continue to flow into reservoirs, and intermittent rains continue to cause muddy flows into the waters as well.

Typhoon Morakot was originally welcomed by people in Taiwan as a potential savior for a drought that has been affecting much of the tropical island. Some cities, including the old southern capital of Tainan and the norther port city of Keelung, had faced water restrictions. But Morakot brought more rain than needed to Taiwan, causing massive floods and landslides on the island.

The presidential office said the rains from Morakot were the heaviest in 50 years.

Typhoon Morakot has been blamed for the deaths of 116 people in Taiwan, according to government figures, and officials expect the toll to continue rising. The military and police were on Thursday able to save 2200 people stranded in mountain villages near the southern city of Kaohsiung after landslides and mud flows engulfed entire towns, including Cishan Township. Thousands remain stranded in disaster areas and rescue work continues.

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture estimates the typhoon destroyed NT$10.67 billion (US$324.3 million) of crops and other goods, including tens of thousands of livestock such as pigs, chickens and ducks.

The typhoon has also been blamed for undersea landslides that have damaged six major undersea Internet and telecommunications cables that serve Asia.

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