Taiwan govt pledges $66.72 million to rebuild Kaohsiung

Taiwan govt pledges $66.72 million to rebuild Kaohsiung
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, August 1, 2014. The explosion caused by a gas leak in Taiwan's second city killed 22 people, injured 270 and sent flames shooting 15 storeys into the air, a government agency said.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Executive Yuan yesterday announced that the central government will give NT$1.6 billion (S$66.72 million) to the Kaohsiung City Government for reconstruction efforts in the city.

The Kaohsiung City Government recently requested that the Cabinet allocate a budget of NT$1.9 billion to rebuild the city's damaged areas. The Executive Yuan yesterday said after a meeting with the city that they have reached a consensus and Kaohsiung will withdraw NT$300 million from its own emergency funds; the Cabinet will cover the rest of the money.

Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said that heavy rainfall hit the port city on Thursday and flooded the damaged areas, and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) ordered Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Shih-chuan (李四川) to Kaohsiung to assist with the progress of reconstruction efforts.

Sun quoted Lee as saying that in order to speed up the reconstruction work, it will be divided into eight different projects that will be carried out at the same time.

The Water Resources Agency (WRA) yesterday afternoon delivered 17 water pumps to Kaohsiung to solve the flooding issue, Sun said, adding that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) also negotiated with Tainan and Pingtung to offer another 20 portable water pumps if required.

Sun went on to say that to prevent any gas leakage from happening again, the Executive Yuan has ordered the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to dispatch inspectors to Kaohsiung to assist with air inspections.

Noting that the weather in Kaohsiung is wet and warm, Sun said the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) also sent officials to Kaohsiung to prevent the possible spread of dengue fever in the city.

Cabinet Attitude Changes

Earlier this week when Kaohsiung requested that the central government offer the NT$1.9 billion, the Executive Yuan first responded that Kaohsiung should exhaust its own emergency funds, its annual budgets and public donations before asking for financial aid. The Cabinet spokesman over the past few days had reiterated several times that it is written into law that Kaohsiung should utilize its own resources first, as Taipei City and Taichung City did.

Given that the Executive Yuan has decided not to make a new set of laws to govern the nation's petrochemical pipelines, not to propose a special budget for Kaohsiung and not to establish a special commission for reconstruction efforts in the city, the Executive Yuan has been criticised and described as "cold-blooded" by opposition lawmakers over the past few days.

It wasn't until yesterday afternoon that the Executive Yuan, for the first time since the explosions, specifically said that Kaohsiung only needs to cover NT$3 million of reconstruction costs while the central government will cover the rest of the NT$1.6 billion.

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