Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Township mayor decries deaths of elderly farmers

DEADLY HEAT Shen Wei-lieh, 83, who was found dead in an irrigation ditch on his farm in Lutsao Township, was the fifth farmer to die this summer in Chiayi County

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The recent death of an elderly farmer, whose funeral took place yesterday in Chiayi County, highlighted the plight faced by rural communities, a township chief said yesterday.

Shen Wei-lieh (沈魏烈), 83, was found dead in an irrigation ditch on his farm in Lutsao Township (鹿草), Chiayi County.

Shen was the fifth farmer to die on the job in the county this summer, Township Mayor Lin Mu-huei (林沐惠) said.

An autopsy found that Shen had died after fainting from heatstroke and falling into the ditch under scorching sun with a temperature of more than 35?C.

Shen's family rushed him to a nearby hospital after finding him lying in the ditch, but he did not recover.

The other four cases, all farmers in their 70s and 80s, also died of heatstroke, the county's Bureau of Agriculture said.

At Shen's funeral, Lin said he regretted that elderly farmers had to work under the burning sun because there were no young people willing to take over the hard work.

Shen's death was yet another tragedy that served to highlight the predicament faced by aging farming communities, Lin said.

The Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion has warned farmers not to go into their fields in the midday sun, especially if they are wearing heavy protective gear for spraying pesticides and herbicides.

Earlier this week, two activists from the Taiwan Farmers Alliance said the government's lack of effective policies to boost agricultural development was partly to blame for the deaths of the five elderly farmers.

"It's such a heartbreaking thing to know that elderly farmers are dying from the heat in the fields to which they have devoted their whole lives," Lin Shan-chin (林深靖) said at a press conference held by Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛).

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