The bodies of four people killed in a landslide on the Formosa Freeway (National Freeway No. 3) on Sunday were recovered yesterday morning.
The victims were identified as Lee Tse-Ying, 32, Kuo Wen-han (郭文漢), 30, Lin Huei-shin (林惠馨), 55, and Yeh Mao-chu (葉茂竹), also 55.
Rescuers found Lee and Kuo’s bodies at 2:37am and 3:40am respectively. The couple were scheduled to marry in June.
PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
Following the discovery, Kuo’s uncle criticized the National Freeway Bureau for labeling the landslide “a natural disaster.”
“It was sunny and clear when the incident occurred. There was no rain or earthquake,” he said in a TV news interview.
“We are victims of this incident and have yet to talk about the possibility of national compensation, yet, [the government] was busy passing the buck by calling it a natural disaster,” he said.
Lin, a driver with Taiwan Taxi Co, was to celebrate her birthday tomorrow. Lin’s son said he had almost lost the will to live after finding out about his mother’s death.
“She will always be my mom,” he said.
Yeh’s wife said she hoped her children would remember their father’s love for them.
Media reports had also said a silver Mercedes-Benz had been passing through the area when the landslide occurred. The driver, Chang Wen-yong (張文勇), later contacted the Keelung Fire Department to report that he was alive.
The Keelung Prosecutors’ Office said that all four victims had intracranial and intrathoracic hemorrhages as well as fractured skulls, among other wounds. The office said it has formed a special taskforce to investigate the cause of the landslide and determine whether it was caused by human error.
Three cars and four people were buried in the slide, which covered 300m of the Keelung-Sijhih section with 200,000m of soil and rock. At 1pm yesterday, the National Freeway Bureau had removed 61,128 tonnes of earth and rocks from the freeway.
Traffic congestion continued on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (National Freeway No. 1) during rush hour, with traffic up 26 percent compared with last Wednesday.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that clearing work would continue and that aerial photos would be posted on the Internet to help the public follow the progress.
In response to complaints about labeling the slide a natural disaster, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said: “It’s a misunderstanding. No one has said that it was a natural calamity.”
Wu said the government would determine whether there were unexpected natural factors behind the landslide or if it was caused by construction defects.
The government would also conduct a thorough investigation into roads built along dip slopes to prevent any recurrences, he said.
The government approved compensation of NT$1 million (US$31,800) for each victim in accordance with the measures governing distribution of natural disaster relief funds. Officials delivered the condolence money to families of the victims yesterday.
Asked by reporters if the government would compensate the victims under to the State Compensation Act (國家賠償法) if civil servants or government agencies were found to be responsible, Wu said the problem would be dealt with according to the law.
On behalf of the government, Wu said he felt deeply sorry for the families’ losses.
Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed his regret and led participants in observing a minute of silence before the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting yesterday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH AND CNA
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