Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Wu tries to head off highway protest

HELL’S HIGHWAY:It has been estimated that the more than 80-year-old Suhua Highway between Yilan and Hualien has witnessed more than 10,000 accidents

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Members of Taipei County Fire Department’s search and rescue team continue their search for those missing close to the Suhua Highway in Yilan County yesterday.

PHOTO: HUANG LI-HSIANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday told Hualien County residents not to make the journey to Taipei during the current bad weather to protest their appeal that “Hualien needs a safe road home,” adding that he would instead travel to Hualien to meet them and address their grievances.

Wu made the remarks at the weekly Cabinet meeting after Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) said he was planning to mobilize more than 10,000 Hualien residents to stage a protest in Taipei on Monday to have their appeal for a safe road heard.

It has been estimated that the more than 80-year-old highway, the only road connecting Yilan and Hualien, has witnessed more than 10,000 traffic accidents, with a death toll of more than 1,000 in the last decade.

The safety of the road came under the spotlight again following the latest tragedy on Thursday last week when heavy rains brought by Typhoon Megi triggered landslides along the highway. The incident killed three people, with 24, including 20 Chinese tourists, still missing.

In a bid to demand that the central government speed up a project to upgrade the Suhua Highway, Fu plans to lead Hualien residents on a demonstration in Taipei on Monday morning in front of the Presidential Office.

“Premier Wu is welcome to visit Hualien to explain the project, but our plan remains unchanged,” Fu said yesterday.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lai Kun-cheng (賴坤成), who represents Taitung County, said he would also mobilize residents from his constituency to join the protest.

The proposal to improve the highway with NT$46.5 billion (US$1.51 billion) to be spent on fortification work on adjacent land and the construction of tunnels to bypass several hazardous sections is expected to start at the end of this year and be completed by 2016.

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