Sanchung mayor rejects apology for flood

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

Walking out of a meeting with contractors of the rapid transit system linking Taipei County to the capital city, Sanchung City Mayor Lee Chian-lung yesterday rejected their apology for floods resulting from lax supervision over the construction.

Lee said the contractors, including a Japanese firm, did not have the slightest respect for those living in Sanchung, Taipei County.

The contractors “didn’t take seriously the lives of Sanchung residents, and thought they could get away with substandard materials and loose work,” said Lee, throwing away his microphone and leaving the meeting, which was held at a Sanchung city affairs office.

The executives were led by Chang Chi-teh, chief of the Taipei City Government’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems.

The three contractors are RSEA Engineering Corp. and Hwang Chang General Contractor Co. of Taiwan, and Kajima Corp. of Japan.

Lee said he could not accept the apology because no one from the Taipei City’s MRT department had even paid the least attention until the floods occurred.

Worse still, the contractors had provided no assistance at all to Sanchung’s residents when they were cleaning up their muddy houses and streets around the clock over the past three days, Lee said.

“It’s not until now that you want to provide Thai workers to help us?” said Lee. “No way! We won’t accept your help, even if you send in hundreds of them.” Lee said he would only accept the contractors’ apology if Sanchung residents do.

But Sanchung resident representatives Chang Chia-wei, Chen Chi-neng and Chen Hai-sun, who also attended the meeting, said no.

“Lee’s anger represented fury of all Sanchung people,” said Chen. “The floods are not (a result of) natural disaster, but a result of human errors.” Chen said the people of Sanchung also would not accept the contractors’ apology.

On Thursday, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou apologized for the flooding, which were some of the worst for Sanchung.

Taipei County is currently ruled by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party while Taipei City by the opposition Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou.

Chang said initial examinations made by the technicians association has discovered flaws in the construction process, for which the contractors should be held accountable.

Taipei City’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems has paid NT$5,000 to each household in Sanchung in preliminary compensation for damages and losses. Chen Ching-hsiu, head of the Taipei City Government’s legal department, said the capital city of Taiwan will decide within one to two weeks how much the people of Sanchung will receive in compensation, the China Times Express reported.

She said each family is expected to be entitled to an amount of between NT$100,000 and NT$150,000.

A standardized procedure will be established for the victims to claim the money, she said, adding that Taipei City will contact Sanchung residents.

She asked Sanchung residents to take pictures of their flooded houses or drenched cars, and keep all the receipts of any repairs to avoid any dispute when they claim the compensation.

Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Ma, after his public apology, put on hold a resignation tendered by Chang, asking him to concentrate on the post-flood reconstruction work for now.

Acting Taipei County Chief Lin Hsi-yao said initial inspections by officials and civil engineering experts showed damage to the underground box culverts in a drainage tunnel running between Sanchung and Taipei under the Tamsui River was responsible for the flooding. Construction of the unfinished tunnel started in November last year to link the MRT network of Taipei City with the giant Tung-an pumping station in the county for the purpose of pumping underground water from the MRT station.

Lin accused the city’s MRT department of failing to closely monitor the integrity of the culverts and construction specifications.

The rising water from the Tamsui River, augmented by the deluge brought by Typhoon Aere that hit the island Tuesday and Wednesday, found its way to Sanchung through the tunnel.

Lin said he would sue Taipei City for the floods.

The case would become a rare example for a local government to take legal action against another to demand state compensation.

But Taipei City’s legal department chief Chen Ching-hsiu ruled out the possibility of the government footing the bill for the compensation.

Chang of the MRT department said the three contractors have agreed to pay the compensation, which he said is unlikely to exceed the NT$2 billion as some have estimated.

Lin became the acting county chief after magistrate Su Tseng-chang was promoted presidential secretary general.

The Cabinet has voiced support for the county’s move, saying the city government should be held responsible as the flooding was related to the MRT department’s work.

But Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai later said the final compensation will be decided by the business agreements between the Taipei City’s MRT department and the contractors as well as the final court ruling.