Typhoon relief visits get a lukewarm response

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

Despite complaints surrounding what flood victims see as unwanted visits to devastated areas, a government spokesman reaffirmed yesterday that officials will continue rescue efforts, going wherever they are needed. Government leaders’ visits to zones hit by heavy rains brought by Typhoon Mindulle will be “brief and simple” but help will come “fast”, Cabinet spokesman Chen Chi-mai said. During their separate inspections to the flood-hit areas in southern and central Taiwan Sunday, Vice President Annette Lu and Premier Yu Shyi-kun were greeted with embarrassing reproaches from victims who lost their homes and crops.

The officials were said to be staging “political shows” and obstructing rescue work, rather than displaying true concern over the disaster, which has claimed at least 19 lives and incurred financial losses of some NT$10 billion. President Chen Shui-bian has said he will not pay any visits to the disaster zones in the meantime, in order to keep from hindering rescue efforts. “The government leaders will respond to distress calls. The government has heard the different views concerning such inspections… but government aid will be sent to where the people need it,” said the Cabinet spokesman.

Economics Minister Ho Mei-yu, the head of the Cabinet’s anti-flood task force who has been criticized for her lack of experience in handling such a large disaster, said the government has heard the complaints. “If there is any discontent, let us know where help is needed, and we will send aid as soon as possible,” said Ho, who took office in May. Opposition lawmakers have blamed government inaction for the disaster. “The flood is the result a natural disaster plus government faults,” said Legislator Huang Teh-fu, deputy whip of the Kuomintang caucus. “The government is cold-hearted, treating the people like straw dog sacrifices,” said Huang. “I will pursue the ones responsible.” Legislator Shen Chih-hui, of the People First Party, said the government should put the huge arms procurement project on hold and instead use the NT$610.8 billion for land and water reservation programs. But Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, whip of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said it is not time to distribute the blame for the flood. “The most urgent thing now is the rescue work,” said Tsai in Nantou, one of hit-hardest areas where he was helping with the rescue.