Initial claims by politicians that they would not engage in partisan attacks appeared to recede in memory as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers spent yesterday finger-pointing over who should take responsibility for massive flooding in southern Taiwan, accusing the Kaohsiung City Government in particular of having long neglected drainage construction.
Various townships in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties, as well as parts of Kaohsiung City, were flooded after Typhoon Fanapi brought torrential rain to the region over the weekend.
The downpour caused the city’s most serious flooding in 50 years, pouring 1,000mm of rain on Kaohsiung’s plains and 1,200mm on the city’s mountainous areas. The rainfall covered four districts in northern Kaohsiung City under knee-deep water. The water level in the city’s Love River (愛河) and Nanzih District’s (楠梓) Houjin River (後勁溪) rose sharply, flooding nearby areas and trapping residents in their homes.
Although Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) immediately suspended her re-election campaign activities and began inspecting affected areas, it did not shield her from criticism.
The KMT caucus on the Kaohsiung City Council held a press conference yesterday to lash out at Chen, saying the city government failed to dredge the city’s ditches and distribute enough sandbags to Kaohsiung residents before the typhoon came.
KMT Kaohsiung City Councilor Chen Mei-chuan (陳玫娟) accused the city government of being incompetent in disaster prevention and relief, saying that the city government failed to offer help when many residents of the seriously flooded Zuoying District (左營) asked the city’s disaster response center for help.
The KMT city councilors also raised concerns over the tens of billions of NT dollars spent on drainage and water construction in northern Kaohsiung over the past few years, saying the money was ill-spent and did not have a noticeable effect in preventing the flood.
In the Legislative Yuan, KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民) accused the DPP and Chen Chu’s administration of “never taking the water treatment issues seriously,” adding that “otherwise, there would have been no reason it should take so long for the flood waters to recede.”
KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) provided documents claiming that Chen Chu ignored repeated warnings by Kaohsiung City agencies that pipes were already heavily congested with mud, garbage and weeds.
Accusing Chen Chu of instead spending more than NT$31 million (US$980,000) to promote city developments, Chiu said: “Chen Chu only cares about elections and places the safety of residents second.”
KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) added that the flooding showed that Chen Chu had focused on construction projects that made the city look nice while ignoring the importance of improving sewer systems and investing in flood prevention projects.
The Kaohsiung City Government denied the charges yesterday, but remained low-key in responding to the allegations, saying that critics should not forget that central government agencies still played the biggest role in local water treatment.
“They should try not to blame the wrong person,” Chen Chu said after meeting with city councilors to postpone a municipal hearing. “At the same time that they are criticizing [us], they should keep in mind that about 80 percent of the responsibility lies with the central government.”