Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Ma takes presidential jet to inspect damage

FIRST FLIGHT Saying he felt distraught at the losses Typhoon Fung-wong had inflicted, Ma Ying-jeou called for more accessible compensation procedures

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Workers yesterday repair a section of a mountain highway in Kaohsiung County that was damaged by Typhoon Fung-wong. The highway is expected to be reopened to traffic sometime today.

PHOTO: HUANG CHIA-LIN, TAIPEI TIMES

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday took the president’s administrative plane to Hualien on an inspection tour of the county’s pomelo fields that were damaged by Typhoon Fung-wong, which slammed into the east coast a day earlier.

Yesterday was the first time Ma used the presidential jet since taking office in May.

Emphasizing the importance of conserving energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Ma has previously insisted on using public transportation for inspection tours. He also arranged for foreign dignitaries attending his inauguration to travel on tour buses and Kaohsiung City’s mass rapid transit system.

This approach has prompted criticism from the opposition that Ma was wasting the budget earmarked for the presidential jet.

Accompanied by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and other government officials, Ma said yesterday he felt “distraught” when he saw the agricultural damage Fung-wong had caused.

“An extraordinary situation must be handled with extraordinary means,” Ma said.

Acknowledging Hualien County Commissioner Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) for his speedy response to the storm, Ma said that the fewer restrictions there were to applying for compensation, the better.

COMPENSATION

Hualien County bore the brunt of the typhoon’s onslaught, suffering losses totaling NT$247.49 million (US$8.1 million), making it eligible for cash subsidies and low-interest loans under the country’s disaster relief laws, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

The second-hardest hit area was Ilan County, recording losses amounting to NT$28.64 million, the council said.

Responding to Hsieh’s estimate that the county’s agricultural losses amounted to NT$200 million, Liu said the county would receive NT$60,000 per hectare in compensation for agricultural losses.

Liu also promised to offer farmers low-interest loans of up to NT$75,000 per hectare.

The time between loan application and issuance would be shortened from 30 days to 15 days, he said.

According to the Council of Agriculture, reported losses to agricultural crops and facilities caused by Typhoon Fung-wong totaled NT$299.46 million as of 9am yesterday.

Damage to crops amounted to NT$274.48 million, with pomelos, bananas, watermelons and guavas being the hardest hit, the council said.

A total of 3,345 hectares of farmland suffered crop damage from the storm, including 926 hectares of pomelo fields, with an average of 37 percent of crops being lost.

Livestock losses amounted to NT$790,000, and forestry losses totaled NT$6.84 million, while damage to agricultural facilities reached NT$16.51 million, the council said.

MORE RAIN COMING

The Central Weather Bureau lifted the sea and land alerts for Typhoon Fung-wong at 11:30am yesterday. The typhoon was also downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, forecasters cautioned residents in central and southern Taiwan that torrential rain could be expected after the departure of the typhoon.

Rain and wind continued to disrupt the nation’s transportation systems yesterday. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that 47 incidents of road damage had been reported nationwide as of 1pm yesterday.

As of press time, the ministry had managed to resume traffic on 37 of the damaged provincial highways.

Close to 100 domestic and international flights were either canceled or delayed.

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