Pandas to debut on Jan. 26
The two giant pandas China gave Taiwan as gifts are scheduled to make their public debut on Lunar New Year's Day. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday visited former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to invite him to the inauguration of the panda hall at Taipei Zoo on Jan. 24. However, the pair will not be ready for public viewing until Jan. 26. Hau had also invited President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday that Ma would not be able to attend because of his tight schedule.
Fire sweeps Alishan area
A fire swept across grasslands in the Alishan area of Chiayi County early yesterday morning and was still blazing as of 2pm, an official at Chiayi Forest District Office said. A preliminary investigation suggested that the fire was the result of arson, the official said, adding that it started on a hillside about 70km off the Alishan highway. The steepness of the slope hampered the firefighters and the blaze spread fast, fanned by strong winds, the office said. As of yesterday afternoon, the fire had destroyed 3.5 hectares of grasslands, and firefighters were trying to contain the blaze by digging fire-break trenches.
Killers still at large: MOFA
The killers who shot dead the Taiwanese executive of a construction site belonging to a Taiwanese cement company in the Philippines remains at large, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday. Frances Lee (李宗芬), deputy director-general of the ministry's East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the ministry's representative office in Manila had been in close contact with the Philippines authorities since the murder last Tuesday and would provide needed assistance to the family of the victim, Lee Shih-ing (李世英), when they arrive there. MOFA said it might take some time for local police to gather evidence and investigate the case, as the murder occurred in a mountainous area of Luzon island. The police have ruled out the involvement of communist guerrillas active in the area, she said, adding that the killing might have been the result of a business dispute.
Cold snap kills fish stock
The recent cold spell has caused heavy damage on fish farms in southern Taiwan, killing about half of the cultured milkfish in Tainan County as of yesterday morning, fish farmers said. A fish farmer surnamed Huang in Tainan County said that the cold front arrived so swiftly that the farmers had little time to protect their fish stocks. Operators of fishponds along the coastal areas of Tainan scrambled to cover the ponds and pump in warm water around-the-clock to help the fish survive, Huang said. About 70 percent of the fish lost were milkfish fry, Huang said. Clam growers who have been growing milkfish in their ponds have also suffered heavy losses, he said. Milkfish are usually grown in clam ponds to help keep the ponds free of algae. With the milkfish dying off in the cold, the algae in the clam ponds will proliferate once temperatures rise, affecting the quality and quantity of clams and dragging down market prices and farmers' incomes, Huang said. The Yunlin County Government said that as of 10am yesterday, about 37 hectares of clam-milkfish ponds had suffered damage as a result of the cold front, and their owners had incurred losses in excess of NT$400,000.