Sun, Aug 10, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Lee Teng-hui chides government over blasts response

‘HELP THE PEOPLE’:Lee said there has been a lack of leadership in the handling of the fatal blasts and urged collaboration between the government and local bodies

By Chen Hui-ping and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Former president Lee Teng-hui talks to the media in Taipei yesterday after a forum on energy organized by the Lee Teng-hui Foundation.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

The central government should treat the gas pipeline explosions in Greater Kaohsiung as an important matter of state and give it due consideration, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.

The blasts in Kaohsiung on July 31 and Aug. 1 killed 30 people and left more than 300 injured. The suspected cause was a leak in pipes carrying propene, which is thought to have saturated tunnels beneath streets in the city’s Cianjhen (前鎮) and Lingya (苓雅) districts ahead of the explosions.

In response to reporters’ questions, Lee yesterday said that recent heavy rain has turned the collapsed roads into a virtual river, adding that the public has suffered enough with the explosions, fires and flooding.

“The government should do everything within its power to help the people,” Lee said.

Lee cited the 921 Earthquake as an example of how the central government could help local governments that have comparatively fewer resources.

The earthquake was the most destructive to have hit the nation in recorded history, leaving 2,415 dead and 29 people missing and more than 11,000 injured.

Within three minutes of the earthquake in 1999, the Ministry of the Interior had established an emergency team, with the Executive Yuan setting up its emergency center about an hour later, said Lee, who was the president at the time.

Lee said he visited disaster areas in Nantou and Miaoli counties shortly after the sun rose.

“Central government officials should visit the disaster area themselves,” Lee said, adding that there used to be a viable system of cooperation between the central and local governments.

The central government should use that system and help restore Greater Kaohsiung to how it was before the blasts, he added.

When asked to comment on Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch’s (張家祝) resignation amid the ongoing squabble over who should be held responsible for the explosions, Lee said he did not have any opinion on the matter.

However, he added that “if the government has no capable officials, then it should replace as many people as needed.”

“Officials should now be up-to-date on international matters while retaining the capability of promoting domestic policies,” Lee said.

Current officials do not seem to know anything about domestic matters or international developments, he added.

“Taiwan needs a definitive direction for its policies and the current direction is as good as having none,” Lee said.

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