Nation remembers 9-21 killer quake

The China Post staff

As politicians, journalists and charity groups flock to quake-affected areas to commemorate the first anniversary of the fatal temblor, refuges are deploring the lack of substantial measures to alleviate their hardship.

A massive earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale jolted the island in the wee hours of September 21 last year, killing over 2,400 people, injuring another 10,000 and damaging some 12,800 houses.

To showcase their concern for the victims, leaders of all political colors have visited the central counties of Nantou and Taichung these days, trading blames for the snail’s pace in rebuilding efforts.

Vice President Annette Lu, who has frequented Nantou 13 times since taking office, accuses the former ruling Kuomintang (KMT) of negligence before handing over power to the new government in May.

“The KMT concentrated on fighting the presidential campaign months before the March 18 vote,” Lu noted. “And a state of virtual anarchy marked the transition thereafter.”

During a recent news conference, KMT Chairman Lien Chan cast the post-quake reconstruction as “in the doldrums” and ascribed the quandary to the lack of leadership demonstrated by the DPP government.

He maintained that his party laid solid foundations for the undertaking.

People First Party Chairman James Soong, who missed the presidency by a slim margin, last week slammed both governments for passing the buck but promised no solution to continued partisan strife himself. “I hope they would join forces in restoring our normal life rather than point fingers at one another,” said Chu Chung-hsin, leader of the 9-21 victims’ union.

Chu staged a sleep-in last Saturday on the lawn of former Taiwan Provincial Government in Nantou to underscore the plight of the dispossessed victims.

The natural catastrophe, the worst to hit Taiwan in the last century, sent many pitching tents on the streets, school playgrounds and military premises.

Some of them stayed in such and other shoddy shelters for weeks and months before being moved to prefabricated housing.

“Sixty-two people in Nantou committed suicide in the last year,”said Chen Chen-sheng, a lawmaker from the disaster county. Chen, who lost his mother in the tragedy, noted that rising unemployment among the refuges has aggravated their economic distress. A mountainous county, Nantou, which bore the major brunt of the shock, had heavily depended on tourism for income but the quake and ensuing aftershocks have scared tourists away.

Poor soil preservation has rendered quake-affected areas susceptible to landslides and mudslides, according to Chen, listing the absence of land policy as another major obstacle to the reconstruction. “The politicians come and go, leaving us little comfort,” said a Nantou resident. “They seem eager to cash in on our plight to extend their political wrangling.” As part of a self-help scheme, local hospitality facilities are cutting their rates by 50 percent in the hope of wooing out-of-town customers. “Hopefully, things will be better when commemorating the second anniversary,” the resident said.