Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Residents of blast-hit areas ask Jiang to help them

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Central and local government officials take part in a multi-faith memorial service in Greater Kaohsiung yesterday for victims of the Penghu aircraft crash and Kaohsiung pipeline explosions.

Photo: CNA

People living in parts of Greater Kaohsiung ravaged by a series of gas pipeline explosions on July 31 and Aug. 1 appealed to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) for help when he visited the disaster area yesterday.

Jiang arrived at the site at 9:30am to attend a briefing about disaster relief in the aftermath of the explosions and subsequent heavy rainfall that has impeded recovery work. He only stopped to speak with disaster victims when they shouted at him to listen to them as he was about to leave after the briefing.

“Do not just come here for show — you have only stayed a short while,” a resident surnamed Tsai (蔡) shouted as he tried to stop Jiang from leaving the intersection of Kaisyuan and Ersheng roads in Cianjhen District (前鎮), the location of the pipeline suspected of being the source of the propene leak that caused the blasts.

Other residents were heard shouting: “Don’t go, premier. Help us,” before Jiang walked toward people gathered at Kaisyuan Road and spoke to them.

The destroyed road has been dubbed the “Kaisyuan River” after the trenches gouged in the street by the explosions were flooded by days of torrential downpours, sparking concerns that flooding could wash away or collapse the surrounding dwellings.

One of the locals gathered there called on Jiang to send structural and civil engineers to the area as soon as possible, saying that the persistent rain is likely to have caused cave-ins.

“What you officials are doing is just putting on a show,” another resident said, complaining about the slow progress in erecting temporary barriers to protect buildings against the rising water after sandbags failed to stop houses from flooding.

In contrast to the displeasure expressed over the central authorities’ response to the disaster, Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) told Jiang that the assistance the central government has offered to the municipality — including delivery of 21 pumps to lower the flood waters and a promise of NT$1.6 billion (US$53.3 million) in funding for reconstruction work — was greatly appreciated.

However, she said the pelting rain and high tides have overwhelmed the water pumps.

Jiang said he understood what it is like to be hit by flooding, saying: “I do feel for the victims,” and promising to ask the Water Resources Agency to relocate more pumps from other counties and cities to Greater Kaohsiung.

He then skipped two scheduled stops to inspect damage caused by the blasts and the flooding in the district’s Sanduo Road, instead heading to Kaohsiung Arena to attend a national religious service in memory of the victims of the explosions and the crash of a TransAsia Airways Corp (復興航空) passenger jet in Penghu on July 23.

The ceremony brought together about 10,000 people from more than 30 local religious groups covering the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Taoist faiths to remember the 30 victims of the blasts and the 48 passengers killed when TransAsia Flight GE222 from Greater Kaohsiung to Penghu crashed.

At the ceremony attended by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Jiang and other officials, Chen Kuan-jung (陳冠榮), the son of former Jhudong (竹東) Borough warden Chen Chin-fa (陳進發), who died in the explosions, said he hoped two “gifts” would be granted to his father’s memory and the city’s residents.

The first is for state-run oil company CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) to move its headquarters from Taipei to the municipality, he said. Despite having many refineries and naphtha crackers in Greater Kaohsiung, CPC does not pay taxes to the city government because it is headquartered in the capital.

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