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Mon, Jun 12, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Mudslide prevention is a priority

PREVENTION The government has announced action on two fronts to protect citizens in `at risk' areas -- by making money available quickly for continued stabilization work and by evacuating residents from danger zones

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A police station near Kukuan in central Taiwan, abandoned after the earthquake that struck Taiwan last September, lies inundated by rock slides from yesterday's quake.

PHOTO: HUNG SHAO-CHIN, LIBERTY TIMES

The threat of further damage in the wake of yesterday's earthquake topped the list of the government's concerns as Premier Tang Fei (唐飛) announced that government funding for mudflow prevention would be made available as quickly as possible, while the head of the COA called for residents to be evacuated from threatened areas.

"To minimize loss of life and property, we are calling for the immediate evacuation of areas threatened by mudflows and landslides," said COA Chairman Chen Hsi-huang (陳希煌) at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Meanwhile, Tang said in an address, said that the NT$200 million the government had previously allotted for mudflow prevention measures would be available as soon as possible.

Tang's statement was made in an effort to calm the frayed nerves of the residents of central Taiwan in the wake of yesterday morning's tremor, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale. Central Taiwan residents are still suffering from the effects of the devastating 921 earthquake last year.

The NT$200 million was allotted in May to the Council of Agriculture (COA) to conduct a mudflow and landslide prevention project. The project was scheduled to be completed by June 22.

However, yesterday's tremor and a forecast of heavy rain have accelerated the project.

The Central Weather Bureau yesterday issued a three-day torrential rain forecast which prompted COA officials to establish a special team in a bid to provide solutions to possible mudflow threats in the mountain areas.

To determine whether ongoing mudslide defenses in disaster areas will be able to stand up to this week's expected heavy rain, central Taiwan-based COA officials investigated several threatened areas yesterday afternoon.

In Wukung borough (蜈蚣), located in Puli township (埔里鎮), Nantou County residents voiced their concerns.

"We are worried about the heavy rain because defensive construction has not been completed," said resident Li Ming-tung (李明通), adding that while COA officials had inspected the place every day, building had been halted for some time.

When Vice Premier Yu Shyi-kun inspected Wukung yesterday afternoon, officials from the COA's Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (水土保持局) said that the halt in construction had been due to residents' reluctance to have their land requisitioned by the government. The government needs the land in order to build runoffs which could channel dangerous creeks to nearby rivers.

"If residents refuse to have their land requisitioned, it is very difficult for [the government] to conduct landslide and mudflow prevention work," said the bureau's director-general, Chen Chih-ching (陳志清), adding that the flow direction of some of the existing dangerous creeks had to be changed.

Wukung is one of 65 villages in central Taiwan listed as "at risk" from potential mudflows by the COA after the 921 earthquake.

However, evacuating people from these villages has become a challenge for the government. Residents have often refused the conditions offered by the government for requisition.

Yu demanded that Nantou County Commissioner Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯) negotiate with residents at Wukung to figure out a evacuation details within the next two weeks.

"All dangerous villages have to be evacuated, but the government will provide residents with several alternatives for their relocation," Yu said, after inspecting Wukung.

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