The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) yesterday defended itself against criticism from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who yesterday held the bureau responsible for damage caused by Typhoon Morakot.
Ma blamed the bureau for not delivering accurate rain and wind estimates at a meeting at the Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center on Sunday. He said the bureau should review statistics accumulated in the past and offer more precise projections.
The bureau, however, defended its performance.
“I don’t think you can say that the precision of the weather reports was in direct proportion to the typhoon damage, or that the damage was caused because the bureau gave imprecise reports,” Shin Tzay-chyn (辛在勤) said. “Of course, there is always room to improve in terms of typhoon forecasts, but attributing damage solely to imprecise typhoon forecasts — the CWB simply cannot bear such a responsibility.”
Shin said that the bureau would invite meteorologists and college professors to review its typhoon forecast service and to discuss ways to improve it.
He said the bureau’s forecast for the path of Typhoon Morakot was the same as that provided by other forecast agencies and that the bureau had published rain and wind estimate updates every three hours.
“You need to make a long-term investment in the weather forecast service,” Shin said. “It is not going to be solved just by purchasing new facilities.”
Lin Hsiu-wen (林秀雯), deputy director of the bureau’s forecast center, said that only the US and Taiwan offered rain and wind estimates during typhoon warnings. The precision rate was to within about 20 percent to 30 percent, she added.
During the typhoon, the bureau had warned residents in central and southern Taiwan to expect heavy rainfall. It was forced to keep increasing its rainfall estimates, however, as the typhoon passed across the country.
Meanwhile, the bureau has lifted both sea and land warnings for Tropical Storm Morakot, which has now made landfall in China’s Fujian Province. The bureau continued to issue heavy rain alerts for areas south of Miaoli County, as rain brought in by the southwest monsoon is expected to continue through today. Chances of extremely heavy rain remain high in mountainous areas.
Meanwhile, Water Resources Agency Director-General Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢) yesterday promised to assume political responsibility for the severe flooding in southern Taiwan.
“I’m always prepared. When the rescue work is finished, I’ll assume responsibility [for the disaster],” Chen said.
Chen made the remarks a day after Ma demanded that the agency examine whether the extensive flooding was the result of a natural catastrophe or ineffective flood prevention efforts.
Ma said the agency should determine if funds allocated for flood prevention projects had been used properly, and that the agency should not shirk its responsibilities.
Chen promised that the agency would begin a review.
He said while the eight-year, NT$80 billion (US$2.7 billion) flood prevention project launched in 2006 targets rivers within the jurisdiction of local governments, the heavy rainfall triggered by Typhoon Morakot caused the rapid overflow of larger rivers in areas that are under the control of central government. Every flood prevention project has its limits, he said.
For example, he said, the flood prevention facilities built along rivers in areas controlled by local governments were designed to withstand once every 50-year events, and those constructed along rivers within areas controlled by central government were designed to withstand once every 100-year events.
“However, the rainfall brought by Typhoon Morakot exceeded the peak volume expected for a once in 200-year event,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
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