Tue, Sep 16, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Four dead, 17 injured in Sinlaku’s wake

HEAVY CONSEQUENCES Officials were in the process of closing Houfeng Bridge when rushing water brought part of the structure down, along with three vehicles

By Shelley Shan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo, front left, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Chiung-ying, center, inspect the Houfeng Bicycle Path in Taichung County to discuss allowing access to scooter drivers.

PHOTO: OU SU-MEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Typhoon Sinlaku, which brought torrential rains to Taiwan from Friday, left four dead, seven missing and 17 injured, the Central Emergency Operation Center said. One man drowned and five were missing after Taichung County’s Houfeng Bridge (后豐橋) collapsed on Sunday.

About 15,950 families were without electricity and agricultural damage was estimated at NT$330 million (US$10 million). Ilan County suffered the most damage at an estimated NT$140 million.

At 8:30pm, the Central Weather Bureau lifted sea and land alerts for Sinlaku, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday night.

The bureau still warned residents in Nantou, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung counties of torrential rain.

Rescuers found the body of Lei Yu-chi (雷毓琦), a 23-year-old cable TV engineer, after his car plunged into the river when the Houfeng Bridge collapsed.

Bridge cameras showed that two more vehicles plunged into the water, but no bodies had been found at press time. Police say one of the vehicles was likely a taxi with two passengers and the other a motorcycle with one passenger.

The Directorate General of Highways said yesterday that Houfeng Bridge had been listed as needing immediate repair, and work was scheduled to begin on Wednesday next week. NT$1.56 billion has been allocated to the project, the directorate said. The bridge, which connects Houli (后里) and Fengyuan (豐原), is part of Provincial Highway 13.

The directorate also said it had sent officials to monitor water levels at the bridge on Sunday afternoon. The officials closed the bridge at 6:50pm after the water level reached a dangerous level. But they were unable to stop two cars that had passed the entrance before the “closure.”

Ten dangerous bridges

1. Kueishan Bridge (龜山橋) Miaoli County

2. Chungkangsi Bridge (中港溪橋) Miaoli County

3. Lansi Bridge (蘭勢橋) Miaoli County

4. Wenshui Bridge (汶水橋) Miaoli County

5. Youluosi Bridge (油羅溪橋) Hsinchu County

6. Wusi Bridge (烏溪橋) Taichung County

7. Houfeng Bridge (后豐橋) Taichung County

8. Yenping Bridge (延平橋) Nantou County

9. Shalihsientung Bridge (沙里仙洞橋) Nantou County

10. Ertsenghang Bridge (二層行橋) Tainan County

SOURCE: DIRECTORATE GENERAL OF HIGHWAYS


Kaohsiung County’s Chiashian Bridge (甲仙橋) on Provincial Highway 20 also collapsed on Sunday night after a pier tilted.

Following a survey last year, the directorate placed 40 bridges on a priority list for repairs. It planned to complete all repairs by 2013.

Chiashian Bridge was not on the list.

In Miaoli County, rescuers dug out the bodies of a married couple buried alive by a mudslide. The couple’s family said the couple had insisted on staying in the area.

In Nantou County, Fenchiu Tunnel (豐丘明隧道) was crushed by a mudslide yesterday, burying four cars.

Mudslides also swamped hotels in the Lushan Hot Springs Area.

Kirei Hot Spring Hotel (綺麗大飯店), a seven-story hotel in the area, collapsed.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday inspected Houfeng Bridge, requesting the Ministry of Transportation and Communications conduct a thorough check of the nation’s dangerous roads and bridges and repair them as soon as possible.

Liu demanded that government agencies complete an investigative report of the incident and determine if any government officials were at fault.

Asked to give a deadline for the report, Liu said rescue and relief work were the government’s priority at the moment.

Liu promised to request funding from the legislature to reconstruct all bridges in the next few years after the ministry presents a priority list.

Liu said the government had reserved budgets for bridges in urgent need of reconstruction in this year’s fiscal budget, adding that the government would propose another NT$5 billion budget for bridge reconstruction in the next fiscal year.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) told the premier that reconstruction of all of the dangerous bridges was expected to be completed in four years.

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