Fri, Jun 03, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Rain wreaks havoc at Taoyuan airport

SERIOUS PROBLEMS:Traffic underpasses leading to the airport and parts of Terminal Two were flooded, while air traffic navigation facilities in Taipei were also interrupted

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Cars throng to Provincial Highway No. 4 in Taoyuan after heavy rain yesterday flooded other major roads that lead to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

Extremely heavy rainfall brought by a frontal system pummeled northern Taiwan yesterday morning, severely disrupting operations at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and affecting more than 200 flights.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that the thunderstorms, which lasted for more than two hours, as well as overflow from the Pusin River (埔心溪), had caused flooding at the two traffic underpasses leading to the airport terminals.

Because of the flooding in the underpasses, motorists traveling to and from the airport were asked to use Provincial Highway No. 4, rather than the usual route, Freeway No. 2.

Rainwater also leaked through the ceiling of Terminal Two and caused flooding in its underground food court.

Air navigation facilities on Datunshan (大屯山), in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投), which are used to guide air traffic into the airport, were also affected by the thunderstorms, forcing Air Navigation and Weather Services to activate a backup system in order to continue with air traffic control procedures.

By 1:30pm, 88 flights arriving at the airport and 131 departure flights had been affected by the weather, including two flights that were forced to land at airports in Kaohsiung and Taichung.

After pumping out the floodwater, the airport reopened its main access routes at 6:13pm.

Passengers were crowded in the lobby of Terminal Two last night due to a backlog of delayed flights and an incomplete resumption of the power supply inside the terminal.

In response to the worst flooding since the airport opened in 1979, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) ordered the ministry to identify the causes of the flooding, adding that it must also identify those who should be held accountable.

“Lin was upset, because the airport is the gateway of the nation, and the flood caused a lot of trouble to the public,” Executive Yuan spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) said. “The premier said that apparently there are serious problems with the construction [of the third terminal] at the airport, and asked the ministry to investigate — if there are human factors involved, then those people should be held responsible as well,” Tung said.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that the ministry would deal with the issue of overflow from the Pusin River with assistance from the Water Resources Agency and the Taoyuan City Government.

He said that Taoyuan International Airport Corp (TIAC) needs to reinforce its ability to handle flooding at the airport, including the use of water pumps and power generators.

“TIAC must learn to coordinate with the Taoyuan City Government and its police department to facilitate access to the airport when flooding occurs,” Wang said.

The Taoyuan City Government dismissed claims from TIAC that the overflow from the Pusin River had clogged the airport’s drainage system with trash and tree branches.

However, Wang said that now is not the time to be looking for someone to blame.

“The most important thing is to solve the problem,” he said.

Wang said that 153mm of rain had poured into Taoyuan within three hours yesterday morning.

The Central Weather Bureau said that rainfall in Taoyuan yesterday morning accounted for about 8 percent of the city’s average annual rainfall, which is about 1,930mm.

The bureau said that the heavy rain was caused by a convection system, which moved slowly and caused heavy rainfall between 9:30am and 11:30am.

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