President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday declared a state of emergency in areas affected by last Tuesday's massive earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people, as rescue efforts continued to shift from search-and-rescue to recovery of bodies -- and as powerful aftershocks continued to shake the island.
The death toll from the quake, meanwhile, actually dropped yesterday as officials said figures from neighboring counties had overlapped.
After as many as 2,191 were reported dead late on Friday, but the figure was readjusted Saturday morning to 1,965 -- but as rescue efforts continued with little hope of finding survivors, the numbers rose again, to 2,002 as of press time.
A further 8,544 people were injured, 206 were said to be missing or trapped under rubble from collapsed buildings, and 1,629 were listed as "stranded" in remote areas not yet reached by rescuers.
In advance of the president's announcement last night, Vice Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (
The government has warned of gross domestic product falling 0.5 percentage points.
Liu pointed out the decree was "limited in scope to be as narrow as possible," placing curbs on its time frame, where it would be enforced, and how it would be implemented.
The decree will be the first since constitutional amendments allowing such a measure were implemented in 1990.
Under Clause 3, Article 2 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, the president may issue emergency decrees to spare the nation from calamity or economic and financial crisis. But the president may do so only on the Cabinet's recommendation and should seek the legislature's confirmation within 10 days.
Legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (
"We are emphasizing rehabilitation and reconstruction," said Liu.
Liu said the measures, once proclaimed in the form of an emergency decree, will only be those that need to be taken urgently, and will only cover the disaster areas of Nantou and Taichung -- the two hardest-hit counties -- and other pockets where the earthquake wrought havoc.
He said the measures, which will be in effect for six months, will aim to:
* Raise money by issuing government bonds for reconstruction, irrespective of legal restrictions for these types of bonds;
* Extend long-term soft loans to the people whose homes have suffered damage in the tremor;
* Settle displaced people by reconstructing leveled apartment buildings regardless of current regulations concerning urban planning;
* Commandeer water resources, private estates, vehicles, aircraft and vessels for relief purposes to cut down on bureaucratic red tape;
* Cordon off and evacuate disaster areas, by force if necessary, to speed up the relief effort and prevent the outbreak of diseases;
* Impose prison sentences on those caught hoarding materials or cornering the market in essential goods;
* Simplify procedures for issuing ID cards for those whose cards were destroyed along with their homes.