President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that deaths from accidents and suicide have fallen sharply, but he called for better precautions against natural disasters to further lower the loss of life.
Speaking at a ceremony recognizing the achievements of local governments in disaster prevention and relief, Ma said the death toll from fires and traffic accidents hit a 20-year low last year, with the number of traffic fatalities falling to about 2,000.
Statistics from the National Police Agency indicate that traffic fatalities exceeded 3,300 in 2000 and 2001, fell below 3,000 for the next four years, spiked to 3,140 in 2006, and have fallen annually since then, hitting a low of 2,047 last year.
The suicide rate has also fallen and an expected wave of suicides after Typhoon Morakot devastated southern parts of the country in August 2009 did not materialize, Ma said, but he still urged the central and local governments to do more in the area of disaster prevention.
Morakot was one of the most deadly natural disasters in Taiwan’s history, leaving more than 700 people dead or missing, and flooding nearly one-quarter of Taiwan’s land area.
Many attributed the massive amount of precipitation from the typhoon — nearly 3,000mm of rain in 72 hours in some areas — to global warming and Ma said Taiwan has felt the influence of global climate change.
Taiwan has experienced a 1.2°C increase in temperature over the past 100 years compared with a global average increase of 0.74°C, he said.
With Taiwan hit by an average of 3.6 typhoons and more than 1,000 earthquakes each year, cutting carbon emissions and disaster prevention have emerged as national security priorities, the president said.