Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Military camps to house flood victims

SAFE AND SOUNDThe premier said the military had launched a project to house those living in shelters, while the results of tests on the Chinese prefab houses were released

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

A soldier cleans a muddy gutter with his bare hands in Pingtung yesterday.

PHOTO: AP/TAIWAN MILITARY NEWS AGENCY

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday that the government would use selected military camps as accommodation for victims of the floods caused by Typhoon Morakot.

Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) said the military had launched a special project to implement the policy.

During a visit to soldiers who were injured during disaster relief efforts at the Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital, Liu said the government had been doing its best to accommodate victims now living in shelters in southern Taiwan.

Liu said the government had made available more than NT$10 billion (US$300 million) to accommodate the victims and give them cash subsidies. Liu said he also held a meeting with local chiefs of disaster-hit areas on how to make breakthroughs in the disaster relief effort.

The premier said victims whose houses were damaged during the typhoon could apply for a stipend from their local government after undergoing an official inspection, but people whose houses have been completely destroyed, such as those in Siaolin Village, should apply directly for the stipend.

Later yesterday, the premier said the central government would invite Taiwanese businesses to join the reconstruction work using donations the government had received.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday that the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde levels in the Chinese-donated prefabricated houses would comply with safety limits a day after assembly and then remain within those limits. The news came after the EPA performed a 16-hour air quality test.

“The EPA recommends that people open the doors and windows of prefabricated houses for a day and then they can safely move into the homes,” Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) Director-General Wang Pih (王碧) told a press conference.

The news came after speculation last week that Chinese-made prefabricated houses may contain levels of formaldehyde that are harmful to health. Reports said that several pregnant women suffered stillbirths or miscarriages after living in the prefabricated houses following the Sichuan Earthquake last year.

On Wednesday, the EPA promised to conduct a formaldehyde test on the homes before Morakot victims moved into them.

Yesterday, Wang said that in the test, “while formaldehyde was not found at all [below 0.1 parts per million], the Volatile Organic Compounds level in the first hour was 11.3 parts per million.”

The EAL tested VOC levels in the homes a total of six times over a 16-hour period on Saturday, Wang said.

“The VOC levels in a completely enclosed prefabricated house reached a high of 15.7 parts per million four hours after being assembled … By the eighth hour, however, that level had dropped to 12.7 parts per million, and after 16 hours, the level dropped to 3.4 parts per million,” Wang said.

The EPA’s recommended safety level for VOC was 3ppm, she said.

Wang said the EPA did not test the house once the VOC levels had reached the safety limit because her team was eager to publicize the results, adding that they estimated that the VOC levels in the houses would drop below 3ppm within 24 hours.

Wang said the EPA was “happy” with the results.

“We hope that people will feel comfortable living in the prefabricated houses … except for the climb to 15.7ppm [during the first four hours], the VOC levels in the assembled prefabricated houses steadily decreased,” he said.

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