Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday said reconstruction projects in areas ravaged by Typhoon Morakot were “effective,” thanks to help from NGOs, religious groups and businesses, and said the government would take the blame for any dissatisfaction with post-disaster recovery efforts.
At a press conference commemorating the second anniversary of the Morakot disaster, a tearful Wu thanked the groups involved.
“If there is anything causing typhoon victims to feel unhappy, I would take full responsibility to get the job done in a satisfactory and speedy way,” Wu said.
Morakot, which brought the heaviest rainfall in 50 years to southern Taiwan between Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, 2009, left 699 people dead, destroyed 1,766 houses and resulted in NT$199.8 billion (US$6.89 billion) in damage to roads and bridges, and agricultural losses, Wu said.
In the two years since the disaster, 2,964 permanent houses have been completed, which is about 90 percent of the houses needed for the more than 10,000 disaster victims, Wu said.
Wu said the government planned to finish building the remaining 10 percent of housing, which is for residents whose houses were not damaged by the typhoon, but are located in areas that have been deemed unsafe to live in, by the end of the next Lunar New Year holiday on Jan. 22.
In terms of rebuilding infrastructure, Wu said that a total of 177.11 million cubic meters of mud and debris had been dredged since the floods, at a rate “six times faster than the average,” and that the dredging continues.
“This has effectively prevented the occurrence of floods in the two years since the disaster in areas that used to be vulnerable to flooding,” he said.
The government amended laws and regulations to transfer dredged sand and gravel in Pingtung County for use in aquaculture ponds, Wu said.
“A total of 930,000 cubic meters sand and gravel has been supplied, saving fish farmers NT$740 million in expenses and has helped the grouper industry to recover -speedily. Last year, the value of grouper production increased by 71 percent from 2009,” he said.
Wu also highlighted industrial rebuilding and said that the orchid industry had recovered fully, with its production value last year increasing 32 percent from the previous year.
Despite the significant progress that has been made, it would still take three more years to complete all projects and much work lies ahead, he said.
“For example, like Provincial Highways No. 20 and No. 21, some roads and bridges are still under construction so that access to rural Aboriginal communities can be restored,” he said.
Wu said he had instructed the reconstruction commission to closely monitor traffic projects and to provide updates to village leaders, borough chiefs and representatives from concerned groups to ease residents’ concerns.
“The anniversary marks not the end, but a checkpoint on the road to recovery. Determination, patience and compassion are needed to get to the end of a long reconstruction process,” he said.
Commenting on Wu’s press -conference, former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said on the sidelines of a book launch that senior officials were expected to make disaster relief, preparedness and crisis management their priorities.
Government officials have to be humble in the face of the global challenge of climate change, as well as the numerous natural disasters that occur every year in Taiwan, Su said.