President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday ordered government agencies to stay abreast of the latest developments and provide all necessary help in the wake of the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that shook the southern part of the country early yesterday.
Ma also activated an earthquake response mechanism and asked the National Fire Agency and the 8th Army Corps to obtain up-to-date first-hand information about the quake, Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said.
Ma yesterday cancelled his scheduled activities after the earthquake and went to the Central Emergency Operations Center at about noon before rushing to Tainan.
“There doesn’t appear to have been severe damage or injuries,” Ma told reporters after a briefing at the emergency operations center in Tainan County.
“However, we must check everything carefully and identify damage,” said Ma, who was widely criticized for his government’s slow response to Typhoon Morakot in August.
A joint press conference was held in Taipei following the weekly Cabinet meeting to brief the public on the government’s action plan.
Director of the Ministry of the Interior’s Social Affairs Department Tseng Chung-ming (曾中明) said the National Fire Agency had set up an emergency task force immediately after the earthquake to serve as command center disaster-response coordinator.
Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said he told military squads stationed in quake-affected areas to begin rescue operations whenever necessary without the need to wait for orders.
Kao said that an hour after the quake, the military had deployed 103 people in Kaohsiung County’s Jiasian Township (甲仙) and 130 in Liuguei Township (六龜), while 35 were on standby at Chi-shan Hospital.
The military also dispatched helicopters to affected areas to assess damage and search for casualties, he said, adding that a S-70C helicopter was sent from Chiayi County to the epicenter in Jiasian Township at 8:43am, and a second conducted another assessment trip at 8:57am.
An RF-5E aircraft from Hualien County flew above mountainous areas in Tainan and Chiayi counties to conduct an inspection at 8:55am and another aircraft conducted a similar operation at 9:36am, he said.
The Army’s Aviation Brigade also conducted eight surveillance flights using various types of helicopters at 8:47am above Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung, Kao said, adding that an E-2T took off at 8:47 am and flew over the Central Mountain Range on a command and control and communications relay mission.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) called on local government heads in the south to submit requests for assistance from the central government.
Wu said the government would closely monitor the situation in mountainous areas to prevent disasters as heavy rainfall expected in the coming days could trigger mudslides.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LOA IOK-SIN, CNA AND AP