The Hualien County Government has drafted a bill that would regulate mountaineering activities in response to a 350 percent spike in the number of hiking accidents over the past five years.
The county recorded 42 such incidents last year, Hualien County Fire Department data showed.
Such accidents not only put pressure on human resources, with rescue workers trained for deep forest search missions having to be reallocated to work in the mountains, but also deplete the county’s budget for rescues, fire department chief Lin Wen-jui (林文瑞) said.
If helicopters are mobilized, fuel costs can be as much NT$1.2 million (US$39,624) per aircraft per deployment, Lin said, adding “that does not even include overtime pay for rescue workers, or their insurance costs and medical bills.”
A recent rescue saw 400 rescuers spend 17 days searching for a hiker missing on Mount Erzih (二子山), the county said.
The cost of the fuel used by the vehicles reached NT$21.6 million, the county said.
Hualien, which has 43 peaks of more than 3,000m, has many popular mountaineering routes, Lin said.
However, many hikers enter mountainous areas without permits and some end up having accidents resulting in serious injuries or even death, Lin said.
Given that, the county felt it was necessary to formulate regulations for mountaineering activities to prevent accidents, Lin said.
The draft bill stipulates that in restricted areas, groups or individuals must apply for entrance permits; plan a route and not deviate from it; bring global positioning devices; hire a professional guide and purchase a comprehensive mountaineering insurance plan.
After the regulation takes effect, violators would be liable to a fine of NT$10,000 to NT$50,000, and would have to cover the cost of their own rescue if they got into trouble, Lin said.
The bill has been sent to the Hualien County Council for a review, which is expected to take place next month.
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