Dozens of activists for the conservation of Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium yesterday rallied in Taipei outside the Ministry of the Interior, calling on the ministry to help stop construction of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) maintenance depot, because subsidence has caused a crack in a sanatorium wall to expand to 33cm in width.
“Refill the holes. Stop the construction,” activists and Losheng residents chanted.
The protest was not their first call for a halt to construction, but it was one of the most urgent.
An official report released by the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) admits the existence of cracks, both on the sanatorium’s old campus and in the new high-rise building, and that the biggest crack had grown to 33cm in two years.
“DORTS always claims that it’s safe, but would you call it safe if a crack on the wall in your house grew to 33cm wide?” Youth Alliance for Losheng member Liao Chia-hung (廖家弘) asked, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had promised to take care of the issue prior to the Jan. 14 elections.
However, nothing has happened so far, activists said.
“In the past six months, there has been no extended torrential rainfall or earthquake in Taipei, and the MRT maintenance depot construction has been halted, but the gaps in Losheng Sanatorium buildings continue to grow, showing that subsidence [of the hill on which the sanatorium is located] is an ongoing issue,” civil engineer Wang Wei-min (王偉民) said.
“DORTS has been looking for a solution, but we’re worried that, before they can find one, a massive cave-in that would cost the Taipei City Government more than NT$3 billion [US$100 million] to fix will happen,” Wang said.
Losheng resident and Losheng Self-Help Organization chairwoman Chang Yun-ming (張雲明) said they came to the ministry because Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) has a background in civil engineering and has declared national security to be one of his main objectives.
“We came here to ask Minister Lee to help find a solution for Losheng using his own expertise, because, despite President Ma’s promises, nothing has been done so far,” Chang said.
“We live in constant fear as the subsidence continues,” she said.
The ministry sent an official to receive the demonstrators, but the protesters refused to see him, saying the ministry showed it was insincere by sending someone with no decisionmaking power.
Completed in the 1930s, the Losheng Sanatorium, located in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sinjhuang District (新莊), was used to isolate patients with Hansen’s disease — also known as leprosy — when the disease was still believed to be incurable and highly contagious.
The campaign to save the sanatorium began almost 10 years ago, after residents learned of a plan to flatten the sanatorium to make way for an MRT maintenance depot.