If President Ma Ying-jeou thought he might be treated presidentially on Wednesday as he toured a center for survivors of last weekend’s typhoon, he was mistaken.
The moment he stepped onto a soccer field that had been doubling as a landing pad for rescue helicopters, Mr. Ma was besieged by angry villagers who accused his administration of moving too slowly to help those still trapped in the mountains near here. As they hurled insults at him, the skies opened and Mr. Ma quickly became drenched to the skin, all of it captured live on television.
“Save us, people are dying,” the villagers yelled while holding aloft handmade banners that read “The government doesn’t value human life.”
Chen Tai-sheng, who trudged out from his mud-soaked village two days ago, said the president should spend less time touring the country and more time orchestrating rescue efforts. “This is a war, not a political campaign,” Mr. Chen yelled.
Typhoon Morakot, one of the worst natural disasters to hit Taiwan in 50 years, is also turning into an unpleasant political experience for Mr. Ma, the former mayor of Taipei who was elected last year by a respectable margin but whose popularity has been steadily dropping.
The storm, which killed at least 67 people across Taiwan and left scores missing, has turned into the kind of test that can make or break a political career, or in the case of Mr. Ma, provide fodder to the opposition — and irresistible images to a voracious press.
On Monday, during an earlier tour of his waterlogged nation, Mr. Ma was seen promising a bulldozer to a man who was searching for the body of his father. Two days later, after failing to persuade officials to make good on the pledge, the man, Lee Yu-ying, was forced to rent his own equipment to dig out his father’s mud-encased car.
“What kind of help was that?” Mr. Lee asked TVBS, a cable news channel.
As with most natural disasters, there has been plenty of blame to go around. When the extent of the storm’s wrath became clear on Sunday, Mr. Ma criticized the country’s water resources agency for ineptitude and accused the national weather bureau of failing to predict rainfall that soaked some parts of the country for three or more days.
On Tuesday, the president of the government’s investigative arm, the Control Yuan, said he would look into whether agencies or officials had a role in the extent of devastation.
“If no corrective measures are taken we will impeach them, impeach them and impeach them until they do what we want them to do,” said Wang Chien-hsuan, the agency’s president.