Amid concern over public safety, the Taipei City Government on Friday began to remove a canopy over Ching Kuang Market (晴光市場) in Zhongshan District (中山).
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) last month ordered that the arched canopy be torn down, saying it could hamper rescue efforts in the event of a fire.
The canopy was built in 1999 and cost NT$9.8 million (US$299,602).
The Taipei fire department said that in the event of a fire, the structure would make spraying water difficult for firefighters, and the canopy would be an obstacle to people living above the ground floor trying to escape during an emergency.
Furthermore, as a 10-story building stands beside the market, the canopy could make it difficult for firefighters to erect ladders, it said.
The announcement drew strong protest from store owners and customers, who said the canopy protected them from the sun and rain and that businesses would suffer without it.
People also questioned why the city government made the decision to remove the canopy now, when it had been in service for so many years.
Taipei market administration office director Wang San-chung (王三中) said the decision was made after a comprehensive review of possible fire hazards.
“As situations during every fire are different, the absence of recent accidents did not affect the decision to remove the canopy,” Wang said.
The canopy would be removed over the next two weeks, he said.
He said that opponents of its removal eventually agreed to the city government’s plan after a series of negotiations, during which officials assured Ching Kuang Market administrators that building a new canopy would be possible if it conforms to regulations concerning rescue operations.
Wang said store owners have begun looking for a contractor to build a new canopy and the city government has agreed to cover part of the cost.
He said the amount of subsidy toward the new canopy would be determined after market administration officers provide a more detailed plan.
The market was once a hub of imported merchandise thanks to US troops stationed nearby, who frequented stores in the neighborhood and brought prosperity to the market during the Vietnam War.
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