Wed, Apr 28, 2010 - Page 1 News List

License plate, light found under freeway rubble

UNDER FIRE Minister Mao Chi-kuo came under fire after he allegedly said that freezers were ready to store dead victims of the Formosa Freeway landslide

By Shelley Shan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Excavators removing tonnes of rubble from the Formosa Freeway (Freeway No. 3) following Sunday’s massive landslide yesterday found a license plate and a taillight belonging to one of the cars reported missing.

The mangled license plate, 4888-VF, was found at 11:47am on the northbound lanes of the freeway.

The plate was identified as belonging to a Mercedes-Benz driven by 34-year-old Kuo Wen-han (郭文漢), who was traveling with his 32-year-old girlfriend Lee Shih-ying (李姉霙) when the landslide occurred.

Rescuers used detectors to locate the missing couple near the site of the discovery, but without success.

Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the cause of the landslide was “very complicated.”

It will take some time before the ministry identifies the exact reasons leading to the incident, he said.

“Some researchers and experts have looked at photos and said what they thought the reasons might be,” Yeh said. “But this is merely their own speculation.”

Yeh said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has entrusted Professor Liao Hung-jiun (廖洪鈞) of the Taiwan Geological Society to form a special taskforce to investigate the cause of the landslide.

Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯), deputy director general of the Department of Highways and Railways, said the taskforce would include geology and civil engineering experts as well as from other fields.

“The taskforce’s main tasks will be to evaluate the risks posed by dip slopes along national freeways and to evaluate the safety of Freeway No. 3 before it reopens,” Chen said.

He said the taskforce would also be asked to investigate the cause of the landslide. The experts will review maintenance procedures and construction methods and make suggestions, Chen said.

Reacting to speculation that rusty ground anchors may have caused the landslide, Chang Chung-ching (張純青), deputy director-­general of the National Expressway Engineering Bureau, said ground anchors that had been recovered did not appear to be rusty.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) was criticized ­yesterday for “not sympathizing” with the victims’ families after he was reported to have said that freezers were now ready to store the dead.

Yeh said the minister was informed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) that some people were trying to help by offering freezers, and the minister misinterpreted the message and thought the freezers were now available for the victims. Yeh apologized to victims’ families on behalf of Mao.

“We will not give up any hope of finding the victims,” Yeh said.

KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said the minister was simply saying he was fully prepared for the worst.

In related news, the Taipei City Government yesterday promised to conduct regular inspections on houses built on slopes and said it would consider revising municipal regulations to make information on such houses available to the public.

Statistics from Taipei City’s Geotechnical Engineering Office showed there are more than 20,000 slopes in Taipei City, on which 135 apartment complexes are built. Of the apartment complexes, 30 are built on dip slopes.

The office’s chief engineer Huang Li-yuan (黃立遠) said it had inspected the complexes earlier this month and found no observable problems.

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