Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) yesterday apologized over the death of eight visitors to the northeast coast last weekend, adding that the ministry would submit a comprehensive report on improving visitors’ safety in the nation’s scenic areas within two weeks.
Yeh made the apology before briefing lawmakers at the legislature’s Transportation Committee about the Central Weather Bureau’s (CWB) budget plan for the next fiscal year.
“I want to apologize to the public and to the families of the victims for my failure as a supervisor,” he said as he bowed to the committee.
Yeh said the ministry would propose several measures to ensure the safety of visitors to national scenic areas, including educating the public about the danger of freak waves, tightening security measures during the high-risk season for freak waves, expanding surveillance systems at scenic areas, recruiting volunteers to help patrol the coast and setting up an alert mechanism combining the efforts of the tourism and weather bureaus.
CWB director-general Shin Tzay-chyn (辛在勤) said researchers have yet to identify the cause of the rogue waves.
The topography of the sea bed could lead to different types of rogue waves, he said.
Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳), division director of the Institute of Transportation’s harbor and marine technology center, said the institute has only analyzed rogue waves at offshore areas.
It has yet to develop a system to analyze what happened near the coast, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Luo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) and Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said that the ministry cannot focus only on building an alert system for rogue waves in its evaluation of the national scenic areas.
It should also look at potential threats to travelers’ safety, such as falling rocks at the Taroko Gorge National Park, they said.
It should also identify the highways on which traffic accidents tend to occur more frequently, they added.
Meanwhile, several lawmakers urged the weather bureau to expand the installation of a submarine cable that is used to help the nation cope with natural disasters caused by undersea earthquakes.
Currently, a 45km cable is laid from a land station in Toucheng (頭城), Yilan County, out to sea.
Sveral lawmakers said the cable should be extended to 200km.