An emergency drill should be held each month from next month to May on the Suhua Highway to ensure a high level of disaster preparedness, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday during a bus trip on the problematic stretch of road.
As the rainy season approaches, Ma said, information about the drills should also be made available online so the public can become familiar with the highway’s road conditions and be better prepared in the event of a natural disaster.
Upgrading the highway began late last month after 26 people were killed there by landslides during Typhoon Megi in October.
In a briefing to Ma, the head of the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH), Wu Meng-fen (吳盟分), said the DGH would erect another four changeable message signs along the highway by the end of April to provide real-time traffic information.
Wu added that the DGH planned to install 35 additional closed-circuit television cameras and designate 21 emergency shelters to enhance evacuation capability on the highway.
Meanwhile, on the second day of a hiking activity organized by Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) to promote tourism along the highway, Fu joined the briefing and asked the president to help give Hualien more exposure by promoting the county to international media.
Fu also urged the government to keep gravel trucks off the road as the vehicles could damage the highway’s foundations, some sections of which are built on geologically unstable land.
In response, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), who was also on the tour along with Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), said his ministry would enhance rail and sea transportation in eastern Taiwan to help transport gravel.
Mao said the measure, expected to take effect on July 1, would reduce the volume of traffic by at least 70 percent on sections of the highway south of Heren (和仁), a major mining area, by 2013.