The Taipei City Government yesterday came under fire over its emergency response to torrential rain as Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) did not announce work and class cancelations until 10am, angering many parents who were forced to rush to schools to pick up their children.
Torrential rain that began hitting the country on Saturday night has caused serious flooding in the city’s Wenshan (文山), Xinyi (信義), Nangang (南港) and Da-an (大安) districts. The accumulated rainfall had reached 350mm by 8am, two hours before the city government announced that work and classes were canceled for the day.
“The overall accumulated rainfall in Taipei did not reach the standard for work and class cancelation earlier in the morning. We announced the decision as soon as the accumulated rainfall reached that standard in hopes of giving parents enough time to pick up their kids from school,” Hau said while presiding over a municipal emergency response meeting at Taipei City’s Emergency Operations Center.
Hau said the city government had authorized all schools and local borough offices at 6am to decide whether to cancel classes before making a formal announcement.
However, Taipei City’s Department of Education Commissioner Ding Ya-wen (丁亞雯) said the department informed schools at 7:25am to cancel classes. She did not explain the time lag.
The city’s Department of Personnel Commissioner Han Yieng-chen (韓英俊) said local governments adopt different standards for work and class cancelation over typhoon or torrential rain. In Taipei, the established standard is 350mm of rainfall within a 24-hour period.
The last-minute notice infuriated many students and parents who said they braved the rain only to find when they arrived at school or work that they were free to go home.
“Is this a city government prank on parents? I just dropped off my daughter at her school two hours ago and now I need to go back and pick her up again,” a Taipei resident surnamed Wu said.
Taipei resident Sandra Chen was also dissatisfied with the city’s late announcement, saying it should respond faster in handling disasters and avoid confusing the public with its poor decisionmaking process.
Wenshan District was the most affected area, with the road surface at the intersection of Muzha Road and Wanfang Road damaged by flooding.
The flooding, according to the city’s Public Works Department, was caused by a broken drainage channel at a local pumping station.
Taipei Deputy Mayor Chen Wei-jen (陳威仁) said a technician surnamed Chang (張), who was responsible for the damage, was immediately fired. Hydraulic Engineering Office Director Eric Huang (黃治) was removed from his post for poor supervision.
Chen said the city would repair the drainage channel as soon as possible.
Taipei City’s 24-hour 1999 Citizen Hotline was jammed by residents who were concerned about the rain or seeking information about work and class cancelations. According to the city’s Department of Information and Tourism, more than 1,000 calls were made to the hotline in the morning.
The Taipei City Fire Department said it handled more than 200 emergency cases due to the rain, mostly for flooding and fallen trees on roads.
About 900 people were evacuated and moved to temporary shelters.