Sat, Jun 16, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Officials rebuked for handling of floods

LOW BLOWS:A government review admonished several mid-level officials for mismanaging emergency protocols, but it left higher-ranking officials out of the line of fire

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Water is released through the floodgates of a reservoir in Greater Tainan yesterday after heavy rainfall in the region.

Photo: Wu Chun-feng, Taipei Times

The Taipei City Government yesterday presented a report reviewing emergency response and disaster handling in the wake of Tuesday’s flooding, holding the Taipei City Fire Department and the Hydraulic Engineering Office accountable for the poor handling of the flooding and the problematic decisionmaking process on work and class cancellations.

In the report, the city government acknowledged underestimating the torrential rain and not launching second-class emergency operation mechanisms until 7:30am on Tuesday, despite reports about flooding, broken road surfaces or other conditions amid the heavy rains that started coming in at about 4am.

Taipei City Fire Department Commissioner Hsiao Ying-wen (蕭英文) received an oral admonition for failing to launch the emergency operation protocol immediately after the Central Weather Bureau issued a heavy rainfall forecast at 4:24am on Tuesday.

The city will also look into the responsibility of the Hydraulic Engineering Office over an operational error at the Wanfang pumping station, Taipei City Secretariat Office Director Chen Yun-ren (陳永仁) said yesterday when presenting the report at Taipei City Hall.

However, the review failed to give punishments to high-level officials as was

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) did not show up to present the review report. Hau came under fire for making the announcement that work and classes were canceled at about 10am, when most people were already at work or in school.

The city’s Directorate-General of Personnel Administration discussed the situation with the mayor before 6am on Tuesday, and suggested that the city should not cancel work and class for the day. The mayor received information on heavy rainfall at about 7am, but top aides advised him not to make a decision until after the emergency operation center gathered more information, Chen said.

Chen blamed Hau’s delayed announcement of work and class cancelations on “partial and incorrect information” on conditions of the torrential rain offered by the fire department, dismissing concerns about Hau’s slow response to the situation.

Chen added that the city government had followed emergency response protocols designed to handle situations during typhoons, and that it would launch an emergency response as early as possible during torrential rains in the future.

The emergency operation center should strengthen its communications with other departments and announce whether to cancel work and class for the day by 5:30am, he said.

The torrential rain caused some level of flooding in most areas of Taipei, and the malfunction at the Wanfang pumping station caused serious flooding in Wenshan District (文山).

In the wake of the flooding, a technician at the pumping station was fired, and Hydraulic Engineering Office director Eric Huang (黃治峰) was removed from his post. The Commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Public Works, Shannon Lee (李咸亨), stepped down on Thursday to take responsibility for poor supervision.

Lee will be replaced by former Taipei City Deputy Secretary-General Chang Pei-yi (張培義).

Chen said the review of the city’s disaster management of the flooding would continue, but he declined to confirm whether more top city officials would be punished.

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