President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday visited areas of southern Taiwan hard hit by Typhoon Morakot two years ago, promising to complete reconstruction by early next year.
The Presidential Office had earlier canceled the visit because of the approach of Typhoon Muifa, but resumed the schedule after the Central Weather Bureau lifted its sea warning yesterday morning.
Ma first went to Siaolin (小林) in Greater Kaohsiung, one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Morakot, then went to the Yonglin organic farm, where Shanlin Great Love Village, the largest housing area for the storm’s victims, is being built.
Shanlin Great Love Village will house about 3,200 people once completed, and similar construction projects are under way at 39 disaster-hit locations in Pingtung, Yunlin, Chiayi, Nantou and Taitung counties, as well as in Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung, the Executive Yuan’s Typhoon Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Commission said.
The president also visited Majia Farm in Pingtung County, where World Vision Taiwan is building about 500 houses for about 2,500 people in the village, and spent the night with village residents.
Ma said he had visited the -disaster-hit areas 82 times since the typhoon two years ago, responding to accusations by Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the party’s presidential candidate, that the timing of Ma’s visit was political as it fell on the second anniversary of the disaster and just months ahead of January’s presidential election.
“This is my fifth visit to Siaolin Village [sic] ... Those who make criticize me should visit the area more often,” he said.
Ma also defended government efforts to rebuild disaster-hit areas in his weekly online address, promising to complete reconstruction projects by early next year.
“Take reconstruction of Siaolin Village [sic] for example: Reconstruction is a complicated process that requires love, passion and collaboration from the government, civic organizations and local residents ... This experience will serve as a model for future disaster relief efforts,” he said.
Siaolin Village Reconstruction Association director Tsai Song-yu (蔡松諭), who was invited to tour the village with the president, said the disaster was an ongoing nightmare for many survivors two years later, adding that he expected the government to put more effort into rebuilding the village.
The storm, which struck two years ago today, caused catastrophic flooding and landslides across southern Taiwan that killed more than 700 people. More than 400 people died or went missing in Siaolin alone.