Wed, Jul 20, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Forestry Bureau censured over deaths

NEGLIGENT:The Control Yuan said the bureau failed to conduct full safety checks after a falling branch caused a train derailment, killing five people and wounding 113

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The Control Yuan yesterday held the Forestry Bureau responsible for a fatal accident on the Alishan Forest Railway that killed five people on April 27.

That was contrary to the position taken by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on the accident.

At 12:17pm on April 27, a large branch from a ring-cupped oak fell on a train while it was traveling between the Sacred Tree and Alishan Station, causing the derailment of four of the train’s eight carriages, which killed five and injured 113 tourists.

The Control Yuan said the bureau failed to spot trees that could pose a threat to passengers using the line, saying the bureau could have taken measures to prevent such an accident.

An earlier investigation by the ministry had ruled out human error as a cause of the accident because “the train was not overloaded, the train and railway were well maintained and the tree’s trunk showed no outward signs of decay.”

Unconvinced by the probe, Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) and the other three Control Yuan members charged the bureau with negligence in maintaining a safe environment for the Alishan railway service and for tourists.

The Forestry Bureau failed to follow the regulations in the Railway Act (鐵路法) and carry out safety inspections of the trees that line the railway and conduct a thorough examination to determine potential hazards.

“In this case, it took only 82 minutes for forest rangers to complete an inspection along the 19.7km-long line between the Sacred Tree and Alishan Station that morning, shorter than the time needed for the train to pass through,” Cheng said.

The Control Yuan said the bureau should have taken precautionary measures to mitigate the chance that a train derailment could occur on dangerous sections of the railway line.

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