Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet, Hsinchu squabble over deaths

MUDSLIDE TOLL The Cabinet's spokesman and the interior minister attacked the county's authorities for seemingly ignoring evacuation plans

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The central government and the Hsinchu County Government are blaming each other for the deaths of 15 people buried by mudslides in Wufeng township during Typhoon Aere.

While the Cabinet said that the county authorities disregarded its warnings and requests for compulsory evacuation, county officials said that they did what the Cabinet had requested before the typhoon struck.

Producing telephone records and other documents, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) told a press conference yesterday afternoon that the central government warned Hsinchu County Government, as well as other counties and cities, of the damage Typhoon Aere could cause before it swept through the northern part of the nation on Monday.

"We're sorry that the county government failed to do a good job evacuating residents living in areas on mudslide alert," Chen said. "But before any punishment is meted out to those responsible, we will focus on rescue and relief efforts."

Chen produced documents which he said showed the Cabinet had requested the Council of Agriculture (COA) issue a mudslide alert by 3pm on Monday.

The Cabinet had also requested the Council of Indigenous Peoples inform township and village offices located in affected areas of the evacuation measures, Chen said.

Phone records also suggested that the COA's mudslide response center telephoned the Hsinchu County fire department, telling it to alert residents living in these areas to prepare for evacuation.

Residents living in Wufeng township's four villages, Taoshan, Tahai, Huayuan and Chulin, were advised to leave their homes, Chen said.

On Tuesday, when schools, government offices and business in certain areas in the north and the center of the country were closed, the Cabinet requested local governments in affected areas execute compulsory evacuation measures and complete them by 5:30pm.

Phone records also suggested that the the Cabinet agencies made nine telephone calls to the county, including three to Hsinchu County Commissioner Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金), four to Wufeng township's disaster response center and two to Wufeng township Mayor Chiu Hsien-ming (秋賢明).

On the second day of the typhoon, the Cabinet instructed its agencies to cooperate with local governments in evacuation efforts. Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) also made a telephone call to Cheng, inquiring about how the evacuation was proceeding and asking if county authorities required any assistance.

Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) yesterday implied that the Hsinchu County Government had ignored the Cabinet's warnings and requests for compulsory evacuation.

Cheng, however, said that they did as the Cabinet requested and that he could produce telephone records to prove it.

Meanwhile, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday toured disaster areas in Hsinchu and Miaoli counties by helicopter.

In addition to expressing personal condolences to the families of victims, Yu ordered that transportation of the bodies of victims from and the delivery of food and medical supplies to the disaster areas be completed by 5pm yesterday.

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