Taipei City Mayor Ko apologises for announcing a typhoon day off

PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je yesterday expressed his regret for making the decision to announce a typhoon day off yesterday.

"Apologies to the nation," Ko responded on whether it was the right move.

Northern Taiwan saw clear skies and mild weather on Tuesday, with little sign of rainfall and wind after Typhoon Dujuan had left the island.

On Monday, Taipei City, New Taipei City and Keelung City governments jointly announced half a day off for Tuesday morning in advance of Typhoon Dujuan. According to the city governments, this consensus was based on various weather reports indicating the typhoon would not seriously affect Northern Taiwan.

According to wind forecasts conducted by the Central Weather Bureau, gusts were to drop from a wind level of 9-10 to 7-8 from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. yesterday, but it is only recommended that "typhoon holidays" are granted when gusts reach level 10.

However, within two hours of the announcement there were thousands of angry complaints by phone and social media from citizens regarding the inconvenience a half-day off would bring and the Keelung City Government announced its plans for offices and schools to take a full-day off on Tuesday. New Taipei City and Taipei City shortly followed suit.

"Afterward, I realised that citizens were very unhappy, not to mention that railway delays would persist until this afternoon. It was taking into consideration the safety of citizens who have not yet returned that we decided to grant a full day off, to assuage the concerns of the public," said Ko, as he surveyed the typhoon debris in Taipei City yesterday.

Ko apologised for his misjudgment but stressed that it was a decision made in agreement with the two other local government mayors and they should shoulder the responsibility together.

New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, said yesterday morning that the change to a whole-day off was not prompted because of pressure exerted by the public, stating it was rather on account of safety concerns for north-south commuters and cleanup operations after the havoc left behind from the typhoon. The decision cannot be based solely on weather forecasts made by the Central Weather Bureau, said Chu.

According to Keelung City Mayor, Lin Yu-chang, at around 7 p.m. Monday night, while the wind and downpour were still battering Keelung City, he was told that the other two cities had decided to announce a half-day holiday. In the past, such decisions would be made public after 10 p.m. Therefore, he was surprised when New Taipei City initially announced their decision at 8 p.m., claiming that is why Keelung City did not say anything until ten minutes later, but it also stressed that the final decision for Keelung City would have to wait until after 9 p.m., after it had obtained more information about the typhoon.

Lin said he held a meeting among local government departments at 9 p.m. and reached the decision on a full-day holiday. He called Ko at 9:34 p.m., stating that Keelung was going its own way, but he would respect the other two cities' decisions.

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