Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Most hypermarkets unsafe, foundation says

CNA , TAIPEI

Most hypermarkets in Taipei City and County are not properly equipped to deal with fires, with the most serious problems being found at RT-Mart's Jhonghe (中和) store and Carrefour's Tucheng (土城) store, according to the results of a survey released yesterday by the Consumers' Foundation.

The survey was conducted between July 28 and Monday at 12 hypermarkets in northern Taiwan: the Jhonghe, Keelung (基隆) and Tucheng stores of RT-Mart; the Banciao (板橋), Yonghe (永和) and Zhongxiao stores of Geant; the Banciao, Jhonghe, Dongxing and Tucheng stores of Carrefour; and the Sanchong (三重) and Keelung stores of Megaful.

While RT-Mart's Jhonghe store and Carrefour's Tucheng store received failing grades in six of 20 safety categories, Megaful's Sanchong store and Geant's Zhongxiao store got failing grades in five categories, and RT-Mart's Keelung store and Geant's Banciao failed in four categories, the survey said.

Failing grades were awarded for shortcomings such as fire hydrants being insufficiently maintained or obstructed by other objects, passageways that were too narrow, emergency exits being blocked, emergency escape facilities not being installed properly and safety signs not being set up at escalators.

Officials from the foundation said that as the fire extinguishers at some stores were covered by large piles of goods, it would be difficult for consumers to locate them in the event of a fire.

Some stores had even used their fire extinguishers as decorations, the officials said. They urged the government to inspect hypermarkets regularly to ensure the safety of consumers.

In response, Carrefour and RT-Mart, the nation's two largest hypermarket operators, said yesterday they would make immediate improvements if the foundation's allegations proved to be true.

Both chains said they conducted safety checks on a regular basis and their safety facilities conformed to regulations.

Carrefour also questioned the accuracy of the report.

"The survey said our Dongxing store in eastern Taipei does not have public toilets. How could that be? Wouldn't our customers complain about it? We wonder whether the foundation really sent people to check these stores," said Lillian Lee (李莉莉), Carrefour's public relations manager, in a telephone interview.

Additional reporting by Jackie Lin

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