Just before the second anniversary of the disaster caused by Typhoon Morakot, Aborigines from areas hit hard by the storm are taking legal action against the government to demand compensation.
Morakot struck on Aug. 7, 2009, causing catastrophic damage in parts of southern Taiwan, leaving more than 600 dead, including 400 people from a village that was buried by mudslides triggered by torrential rain.
Hsu Po-yin (徐報寅), chief delegate of the Siaolin Village Rebuilding and Development Association, said the primary functions of the association were to investigate why Morakot had wiped out Siaolin Village (小林) and assist the families of victims apply for state compensation.
On Friday, 309 residents of Siaolin demanded that the municipal government and a local township office pay NT$1.5 billion (US$51.7 million) in compensation for the “flawed rescue” during the typhoon.
Another group of 35 villagers filed a separate petition against the forestry bureau and the water resources agency, seeking NT$471 million in compensation.
The residents said that the authorities failed to efficiently monitor mudslides and evacuate the village in time, resulting in the huge death toll and financial losses. The Greater Kaohsiung Government said it would submit a report on its rescue efforts to the state compensation review board, which will rule on the cases.
Meanwhile, Dahai YisiNanGuan BaLaFei, director-general of the Nansalu Village Rebuilding Association in Namasiya (那瑪夏), said 26 people from the village died during Morakot and the tribesmen “were not satisfied” with the government’s rebuilding efforts during the past two years.
Dahai said the government’s logging programs as well as the use of explosives in the region for water channeling had damaged geological structures, and this was the main reason why Morakot had caused such extreme destruction.
“The government can’t shrug off the blame,” Dahai said.
Huang Chih-hui (黃智慧), a board member of the Millet Foundation, which promotes and preserves indigenous cultures, criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for its handling of the disaster reconstruction efforts.
Huang said it took the government four months to carefully set out guidelines for reconstruction after the nation was struck by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake on Sept. 21, 1999.
However, with the Morakot disaster, the Ma administration rushed the Special Statute Governing Morakot Post-Reconstruction (莫拉克颱風災後重建特別條例) through the Legislative Yuan in just three days, Huang said.
The government also failed to hold a public hearing, Huang said, turning the reconstruction process into a mass migration as Aboriginal tribes were forced to move to the plains as the government created “special areas” in the -disaster-struck region that forced some inhabitants to relocate.
Huang criticized the government’s rebuilding committee for sacrificing quality for speed and said there has been little investigation by experts into why the impact of Morakot had been so devastating or what the impact of the disaster had been on the culture of the villages.
There hasn’t even been any discussion about the possibility of reforestation, she said, saying the government was totally reliant on the private sector for building permanent housing, effectively leaving Aboriginal disaster victims without any government aid.