Almost half of the TransAsia search & rescue team falls ill

Almost half of the TransAsia search & rescue team falls ill
A group of relatives gathers to pray next to the recovered wreckage of the TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane along the banks of the Keelung river, outside Taiwan's capital Taipei in New Taipei City on February 5, 2015 a day after it crashed into the river with 58 people on board.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei City Fire Department acting department head Wu Chun-hung  yesterday said that as a result of the recent cold fronts, around half of the deployed search and rescue team has fallen ill, leading to a strain in manpower.

Wu said that numerous police authorities, firefighters, military service personnel and special divers have started to develop symptoms of serious illness from diving and standing in the cold as well as being exposed to the wind for prolonged periods of time.

Some team members had to call in sick, Wu said, resulting in a shortage of manpower required to efficiently look for the three remaining passengers that are still missing. As such, Wu said, personnel requests have been sent to rescue units in Central and Southern Taiwan as well as to private organisations, hoping to receive enough hands to continue the search.

Wu went on to relay the seriousness of the physical toils all search and rescue team members have to endure, saying that of the scheduled 100 rescuers who were supposed to work in Keelung River yesterday, only 60 were able to report for duty.

Wu later went on to explain the details of the rescue efforts, stating that the area has expanded and focused on 22 potential wreckage locations after employing the use of sonar detectors that have built-in global positioning systems.

Ko and Cheng Attend Funeral of Pilot

In related news, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan yesterday attended the funeral of Liao Chien-tsung, one of the pilots of Flight GE235.

While Cheng said that Taoyuan City will do what it can to support the future of Liao's children and to help induct the late pilot into the National Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine, Ko left the service without speaking to the media.

However, Ko recently said he has requested that the entire Taipei City Government submit review reports on the issue of the TransAsia search and rescue team. Still, the mayor said that he thinks both the Taipei City Government and the New Taipei City Government have performed exceptionally following the unfortunate TransAsia tragedy.

In accordance with his usual outlook on leadership, however, the mayor also said that there's never a best effort but only a better effort, which is why he has tasked every one of his subordinates with the responsibility to submit a report on the incident and its aftermath.

Flags Fly Half-mast Nationwide Today

Aside from local governments, the central government has also responded to the tragedy by ordering all national and local political establishments to lower their flags to half-mast today to show respect after the incident.

Instructions were passed down from the Executive Yuan yesterday, stating all flags nationwide are to be flown at half-mast to remember the TransAsia victims, as today marks the traditional Chinese memorial day, the "First Seven".

Various government-organised funeral and memorial services will also take place throughout the day at different locations and different times.

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