Ministry to check water safety measures

TOURIST FATALITIES::The minister has asked the Tourism Bureau to ensure that travel agents assist in repatriating bodies of the victims from Vietnam and the Philippines

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Oct 05, 2012 - Page 4

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) yesterday said his ministry will re-examine water safety measures around the nation following boating accidents in the Philippines and Vietnam that killed eight Taiwanese tourists on Wednesday.

Mao made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, in which he was scheduled to brief lawmakers about the plan to offer seamless transport services between tourist attractions.

However, lawmakers were more concerned about what the government would do to prevent similar boating disasters. They mentioned the boating accident on Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou County 22 years ago in which 57 passengers died.

Mao said he has asked the Tourism Bureau to make sure that travel agents do everything they can to assist the family members in bringing back bodies of the victims from Vietnam and the Philippines. He said water safety measures would be re-examined as well.

Tourism Bureau Director-General David Hsieh (謝謂君) said the travel agency that organized the tour to Halong Bay, Vietnam, said that all 36 members in its tour group had worn life jackets.

The bureau was scheduled to convene a meeting with the travel agents within a week to discuss the safety issues in some of the popular tourist destinations overseas, he said, adding the bureau would also advise travel agents to change their itineraries if necessary to avoid some of the “travel landmine zones,” where it was unsafe to travel.

Both boating accidents happened on Wednesday afternoon. The accident in the Philippines happened after strong winds and heavy rain caused a boat to capsize off Boracay, killing three Taiwanese.

The one in Vietnam occurred when a tourist group was transferring from small boats to a bigger one, and one of the small boats was hit by another vessel, which was also carrying tourists.

The bureau said there are many sightseeing ships in Halong Bay, and some of the operators do not strictly follow the navigation rules. It is suspected that the boat was hit by a ship that was not navigating along the correct route.

Travel agents said they would generally choose high-class ships for tours in Halong Bay, where tourists would be required to wear life jackets, although some choose not to because they think it is a hassle.

The bureau said tour guides could be fined for failing to inform tourists about life jacket requirements.