Tue, Aug 18, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Victims blame reservoir project

SUSPICIONS Survivors in hard-hit regions said that since construction began on the Tsengwen reservoir diversion project, nearby townships had suffered major flooding

By Meggie Lu, Flora Wang and Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Military personnel pass along provisions in Kaohsiung County yesterday as roads connecting Maolin Township have been cut off by flooding and landslides.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

As Typhoon Morakot disaster rescue and cleanup work rolled into its 10th day yesterday, survivors of the hardest hit regions — Kaohsiung County’s Jiaxian (甲仙), Liukuei (六龜), Taoyuan (桃源) and Namasiya (那瑪夏) townships — continued to voice strong suspicion that the nearby Tsengwen Reservoir trans-basin diversion project was responsible for the destruction of their villages.

“Though the government said that this project did not cause Xiaolin Village (小林) to be completely wiped out, we find it hard to believe,” Xiaolin Village Self-help Association spokeswoman Hsu Wan-su (徐婉愫) said.

Since construction began two years ago, the townships have suffered several major floods, Hsu said.

“The Morakot flood took 500 lives in our village … Such floods never occurred in the past century, ever since our ancestors arrived, so our suspicions are completely logical,” Hsu said.

In response, Water Resources Agency Director-General Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢) said that the disaster “had nothing to do with the project.”

A tearful Chen told reporters that the dynamite used in the Tsengwen project cut into mountain surfaces to a much shallower extent than most tunnel projects, and that it could not have caused mudslides.

“Satellite images show that about 50 hectares of the mountain collapsed onto Xiaolin Village, bringing with it 3 million to 4 million cubic meters of mud. The Tsengwen diversion project couldn’t have caused something so powerful,” he said.

“To point the finger at us for a disaster that took several hundred lives is a burden heavier than we can bear,” Chen said.

However, Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) yesterday demanded that the Cabinet order an immediate halt to the construction.

“The Morakot disaster claimed 28 lives in Tainan County, most of which have to do with Tsengwen Reservoir flooding,” Su said.

“[Besides Tainan County], the most affected areas — Jiaxian, Liukuei, Taoyuan and Namasiya townships — are all located on the five faults and three fracture belts that the diversion project passes … We will represent victims’ families to demand compensation from the [central] government,” Su said.

Mourners continued to battle with the trauma yesterday and brace themselves for the long road of reconstruction ahead.

“Words cannot express my shock, pain and sorrow over having two-thirds of my students taken away by one storm,” Xiaolin Elementary School principal Wang Chen-shu (王振書) said.

As of yesterday, 57 out of 81 Xiaolin Elementary School students were either dead or missing.

Nearby at Jiaxian Junior High School, 19 students out of the 30 or so children living in mountainous areas have not been found, the junior high school’s principal Chen Bi-yuan (陳碧媛) said.

“Some children have not spoken for days, and instead have just cried in silence,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, Taoyuan Township chief Hsieh Chui-yao (謝垂耀) said that help was still urgently needed for people in his township.

“We are without electricity and running water. The only communication we have with the outside world is a temporary base station that is powered by a small generator, but the electricity will run out in another two days,” Hsieh said.

As of press time, Taoyuan Township’s Meishan Village (梅山) chief Wu Jin-song (吳進松) remained on the mountain with about 200 of his villagers.

His daughter and wife, who were airlifted to the Cishan Junior High School shelter, said her village was in need of money to pay for hospital fees, rice and cooking oil.

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