Government agencies and guidebooks may tout the nation’s night markets as top attractions for both Taiwanese and foreign tourists, but the Consumers’ Foundation says public safety hazards at the markets are being overlooked in the drive to attract visitors.
The foundation said fires and other mishaps frequently occur at night markets, and it urged the government both to keep up with international standards and to press local authorities to stop neglecting the situation.
Foundation officials said that since 2011 there have been fires at night markets in Taipei’s Shilin (士林) and Jingmei (景美) districts, Greater Taichung’s Fengjia District (逢甲) and New Taipei City’s (新北市) Lehua Market in Yungho District (永和).
The fires were caused by gas tank leaks and explosions, or faulty wiring and circuit overloads, it added.
Foundation secretary-general Lei Li-fen (雷立芬) said a transformer explosion at the Shilin Night Market in June, caused by a short circuit, triggered a power outage that affected more than 600 shops and households.
There was also a transformer short-circuit at the Jingmei Night Market recently, which cut off power to more than 2,000 premises and households, she added.
“Night markets are always packed with crowds, alive with energy and commerce. However, there is danger all around,” Lei said, citing the piles of extension cables that clutter the markets, the overuse of multiple-socket plugs and flammable materials placed near electrical outlets.
“Most of the passageways in night markets are narrow. In the event of a fire or an emergency, crowds of people may start to push and shove as they try to escape. This could lead to disastrous consequences,” she added.
Chuan Chi-chung (莊啟忠), another foundation official, said fire departments should make regular inspections of night markets because many business owners are still using gas tanks that have not passed safety certifications.
He urged shops and food stall operators to use flame-retardant materials when renovating their premises or building new stalls, and reminded them not to block fire evacuation routes.