Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen drips with anger over closure of major freeway

CNA , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday took transportation officials to task over road closures as he inspected several areas in southern Taiwan damaged by Typhoon Haitang.

Chen was upset by the fact that the Matou (麻豆) section of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway has had to be closed twice in little more than one month.

Accompanied at the site by Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) and Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥), Chen apologized to the public for the inconvenience caused by the closure, and warned that if the section flooded again after improvement works, the "director-general and the minister will have to step down."

He was referring to Chen Chien-yu (陳建宇), director-general of the Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau, and Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三).

Chen Chien-yu told the president that the Matou section of the freeway is in a low-lying area.

He said that a nearby reservoir had discharged excess water on four occasions during the typhoon -- more than the road could withstand in such a short period of time.

It was closed last week for 35 hours.

The typhoon had brought torrential rain of a volume rarely witnessed before, Chen Chien-yu said.

The president said that there may be any number of reasons for the flooding, but he was angry that it had happened twice in a month.

In addition, he said, closing the freeway affected many people, and the government owed them an apology.

Chen Shui-bian also said he was perplexed as to why the bureau, knowing that the Matou section is situated in a low-lying area and that improvement works there were not complete, had not taken any extra precautions after the flooding last month.

Lin said that an assessment in 1996 suggested raising the Matou section, and that this was what was being done.

After the work is completed this March, the section will no longer suffer from flooding, he said.

The section, which was under 80cm of water during Typhoon Haitang, will be 2m higher than now when construction is completed, Lin said.

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