Mon, Aug 17, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Ma to ‘shoulder all responsibility’

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday he would shoulder all responsibility for the shortcomings in his government’s response to Typhoon Morakot.

“As president of the Republic of China, I will bear all responsibility. Please rest assured that we will do a good job,” Ma said while touring the disaster response center in Pingtung County.

Asked by CNN at a separate setting to elaborate on what he meant by “taking all responsibility,” Ma said it meant he would find out what’s wrong with the rescue system, correct the problems and discipline officials in charge.

During his visit to Pingtung yesterday, Ma said that while he did not expect the public to understand, or even forgive, what his government did, Taiwanese knew in their heart how things stood.

While the public has criticized the government for reacting too slowly to the emergency, Ma has blamed the sustained rain. Ma said he never blamed the victims of the typhoon, but rather that the government had learned a lesson from the disaster and that it should evacuate residents — even against their will — when an emergency of this magnitude occurs.

As more than 1,000 residents still refuse to leave their mountain settlements, Ma yesterday instructed the Ministry of the Interior to amend the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法) to include compulsory evacuation standards.

Ma asked local governments to take typhoon prevention drills seriously, urging them to pay more attention to disaster prevention than to disaster relief.

If they did not change their mentality, Ma said, the same mistakes would happen again.

During a visit to Neipu Township (內埔), Ma apologized to the victims for coming too late. He said that following a national security meeting on Friday, reconstruction efforts and the relocation of displaced individuals to emergency housing would begin soon.

As local governments have proposed contingency plans, Ma said the central government would play a supporting role.

In Hsinyuan Township (新園), Pingtung County, Ma said the government would consider expanding the flood prevention benchmark from 150 years to 200 years.

Ma made the remarks in response to complaints by typhoon victims that the flood was far more serious than the government had expected.

To show his compassion for the victims, Ma said he had personally replied to an e-mail from a person calling for help.

Ma also visited Fengshan City (鳳山), Kaohsiung County, to pay his respects to Wang Tsung-li (王宗立) who was one of three crew members on a UH-1H helicopter that crashed on Tuesday in the Yila Valley in Wutai Township (霧台), Pingtung County, during relief operations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER

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