Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday said the flooding caused by Typhoon Fanapi could deal a blow to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) re-election bid in November.
Approached for comment at the legislature, Wang said “it is possible” the flooding will affect the result of November’s special municipality elections.
Wang, who doubles as chief supervisor for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Huang Chao-shun’s (黃昭順) campaign, said the flooding could also become an important agenda issue in the campaign.
On Friday, Chen outperformed Huang by 31 percentage points in an approval rating poll released by the Chinese-language China Times.
Wang’s comment came in response to speculation that the severe flooding in northern Kaohsiung could prove damaging to Chen’s re-election campaign.
However, former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), currently working as a Democratic Progressive Party election strategist, said he did not believe the city government’s response would have an impact on the election.
Residents living in the city’s Zuoying (左營), Nanzih (楠梓), Sanmin (楠梓) and Gushan (鼓山) districts were overwhelmed by knee-deep floodwaters caused by hours of torrential rain on Sunday.
The downpour caused the city’s most serious flooding in 50 years, bringing 1,000mm of rainfall to Kaohsiung’s plains and 1,200mm to the city’s mountainous areas.
The water in the city’s Love River and Nanzih’s Houjin River rose quickly and sharply, flooding the nearby areas and trapping residents in their houses.
The neighborhood of Taiwan High Speed Rail’s Zuoying Station was also seriously flooded.
Chen suspended all campaign activities yesterday and led city government officials to inspect districts seriously affected by the flooding, saying campaigning would not resume until cleanup efforts were completed.
“Our primary focus is dealing with the after-effects of the typhoon,” Chen’s campaign spokesperson, Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), said in a short statement. “In the meantime, all election events will be postponed and our efforts will be on post-typhoon reconstruction.”
Chao also said supporters in local chapters of Chen’s campaign would be asked to volunteer with reconstruction and an original opening date for the mayor’s campaign headquarters over the weekend would be postponed indefinitely.
During her inspection trip to Nanzih and Sanmin districts, Chen was bombarded with complaints from victims of the flooding trapped on the second floor of their houses.
She apologized and blamed the flooding on the rainfall, saying the downpour exceeded the capacity of the city’s sewer and flood prevention system and caused flooding in the city’s low-lying areas.
She said it was necessary to review the systems’ design to prepare for extreme weather.
Meanwhile, Huang cut short a visit to Singapore and returned to Kaohsiung yesterday afternoon to help with the typhoon response.
Her campaign headquarters announced they would halt campaign activities and asked volunteers to help deliver food and supplies to flooded areas.
While members of Huang’s campaign team said they had heard criticism from local borough chiefs about the lack of preparation from the city government, they declined to say whether it would have an impact on the upcoming elections.
KMT spokesperson Chen Shu-jung (陳淑容) said Huang’s decision to return home showed her “strong feelings” for the Greater Kaohsiung area and that her party would fully cooperate with the relief effort and help residents return to their normal life.