Fri, Apr 30, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Initial report on landslide expected next week: Mao

COMPENSATION Lawmakers asked Mao Chi-kuo how his ministry would help victims of the landslide seek redress, citing several cases of long, drawn-out lawsuits

By Shelley Shan and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporters

The government will present the results of a preliminary investigation on the cause of Sunday's landslide on the Formosa Freeway on Friday next week, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday.

As of Wednesday, four people were confirmed killed in the landslide.

“We have formed a special task force and invited domestic experts, as well as experts from Japan and Italy, to help us inspect slopes along freeways,” Mao told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) during the legislature's Transportation Committee meeting.

Liao Hung-jiun (廖洪鈞), president of the Taiwan Geotechnical Society, has been commissioned to invite experts specializing in geology, civil engineering and other fields to join the probe.

The society's team of 60 engineers will begin inspections next week.

Mao said the ministry had set two fundamental principles in handling the aftermath of the landslide incident.

“First, we have to determine if both the National Expressway Engineering Bureau and the National Freeway Bureau strictly followed the guidelines governing design of public constructions, execution of the construction and road maintenance procedures,” Mao said. “And if it is determined that bureau officials followed the guidelines, then we have to consider reviewing the guidelines and making the necessary changes.”

Mao said many of the nation's construction codes were changed following the Sept. 21, 1999, or 921, earthquake.

Several lawmakers, including Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), Lai Kun-cheng (賴坤成) and Wang Sing-nan (王幸男), questioned Mao as to how the ministry would assist the families of the victims in seeking compensation from the government.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Wednesday that the ministry must help the families seek state compensation.

Yeh said the families might receive no compensation at all if the ministry merely “assists” them.

She said that when the Dongshing Building (東星大樓) in Taipei City collapsed during the 921 earthquake, the victims' families ended up embroiled in a national compensation lawsuit for 10 years.

When Nantou County's Fengchiu Tunnel (豐丘明隧道) collapsed during Typhoon Sinlaku in 2008, families also filed for state compensation, but lost in court, she said.

Mao said each case was different, adding that the Directorate General of Highways quickly settled a dispute with the families of victims of the Houfeng Bridge (后豐大橋) collapse in 2008 without going to court.

DPP Legislator Kao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the ministry should seek to settle the case with the families.

Mao said while the ministry would try to help the families, it still needed to identify the cause of the landslide and see whether the government was at fault.

In response to Yeh's questions about possible national compensation lawsuits, Mao said: “It's still too early to say.”

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the ministry would help the families according to the law. He said the ministry may take the initiative to settle any case.

Meanwhile, senior Cabinet officials observed a minute's silence for the victims yesterday.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) instructed the ministry to produce credible evidence in its investigation report to give the public a clear account, Executive Yuan spokesman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.

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