Fri, Sep 19, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Ma rejects criticism over slow response to disasters

By Ko Shu-Ling And Shih Hsiu-Chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Officials yesterday look at the section of Houfeng Bridge that fell into the river on Sunday after Typhoon Sinlaku struck the nation.

PHOTO: OU SU-MEI, TAIPEI TIMES

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday declined to comment on whether government officials should apologize or step down to take responsibility for the damage and deaths caused by Typhoon Sinlaku. Instead, he said that the government would complete an investigation within a week.

Typhoon Sinlaku claimed 12 lives and several people remain missing after landslides near the Fengciou Tunnel (豐丘隧道) in Nantou County on Monday and the collapse of part of Houfeng Bridge (后豐橋) on Sunday.

Ma said yesterday that he and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) had agreed that the government would decide within a week whether government officials should be held responsible for the deaths.

The Nantou District Prosecutors’ Office and Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office have also launched probes into whether any civil servants should be held criminally responsible, he said.

Ma also requested that the Nantou County Government find out whether the hot spring hotels in the county were built legally. He said that any illegally built or condemned buildings should be demolished.

Regarding criticism that he had taken too long to visit the disaster areas, Ma said that he believed that it would not have been a good idea for him to go there before firefighters and rescue workers had completed their work.

He and Liu had different responsibilities, he said, adding that to avoid causing unnecessary trouble, he would rather visit disaster areas after search and rescue operations came to an end, a more appropriate time to determine how to tackle similar problems in future.

At a separate setting earlier yesterday, Liu said the government would determine which officials should take responsibility for the casualties within a week.

“Because of the problems of global warming and climate change, natural disasters pose a greater threat. Although natural disasters are terrible, man-made calamities are intolerable,” Liu said at the Cabinet’s weekly meeting.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) was singled out by some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, who demanded he resign over the tragic incidents.

Mao said yesterday that he would reflect on the situation, but stopped short of taking any responsibility.

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