Taiwan Today: Whale-watching boat catches fire off Hualien Port, Government to supplement budget for electric scooter subsidies

The blaze broke out for unknown reasons in the whale-watching boat's engine room when it was 2.2 nautical miles off the port.

Whale-watching boat catches fire off Hualien Port

A whale-watching boat carrying 46 people caught fire at sea Monday about 20 minutes after it embarked from Hualien Port, but all aboard were rescued and brought to safety, according to the National Rescue Command Center.

The blaze broke out for unknown reasons in the boat’s engine room when it was 2.2 nautical miles off the port. All aboard were evacuated to one other whale-watching boat.

There were no serious injuries, but one woman was hospitalized with a minor injury.

The fire was extinguished, while two coast guard patrol ships and a fishing boat were sent to the site to help with rescue efforts. A National Airborne Service Corps helicopter was also on standby, according to the rescue center.

For some patients in fatal fire, migrants are lifesavers

Sitting at the bedside of her elderly mother, a weeping woman surnamed Hsieh (謝姓婦人) offered profuse thanks to Supraph, an Indonesian caregiver, for saving her bedridden mother trapped in a deadly fire at a hospital in New Taipei early Monday.

“My mother would not have survived the fire had it not been for Adi,” Hsieh told CNA in the hospital’s emergency room, referring to Supraph who has taken care of Hsieh’s 92-year-old mother since January.

The fire that reportedly broke out at around 4:30 a.m. in the seventh floor long-term care ward in the Xinzhuang (新莊), New Taipei, branch of Taipei Hospital has left nine people dead and 16 injured — 10 with serious injuries and six with minor injuries.

“Adi was very brave and kind-hearted. She didn’t run for her own life when the fire occurred, and the other migrant caregivers didn’t either,” Hsieh said. “The patients looked after by migrant caregivers were all safely evacuated.”

Supraph said that the fire took place a while after the nurses changed the patients’ diapers, something they routinely do every night at around 3 a.m.

9 people killed in Taiwan nursing home fire; 16 hurt
In this image from a video, firefighters try to extinguish fire at Taipei Hospital of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in New Taipei City, Taiwan Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. The fire broke out in the early hours of Monday morning, killing several people. (EBC via AP)

Government to supplement budget for electric scooter subsidies

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) plans to add money to its budget for electric scooter subsidies to encourage the replacement of gasoline-powered scooters and promote cleaner air, the MOEA’s Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) said Monday.

Only NT$20 million (US$660,000) of the NT$440 million budgeted to subsidize electric scooter purchases this year is left, the IDB said, but the funding will be supplemented by funds diverted from subsidies given to electric vehicle makers to set up battery charging stations.

The MOEA will also draw on unused budgets to beef up the subsidy budget, the IDB said, though it was short on details on how much would be available and what other programs would be affected.

The MOEA currently provides a subsidy of up to NT$10,000 to purchasers of new electric scooters.

Electric scooter subsidies have been depleted more quickly than expected this year because of the sharp rise in vehicle sales.