Taiwan official removed over wave deaths

TAIPEI - Director of Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area Hsu Cheng-long (許正隆) yesterday agreed to be transferred to another position after his statement regarding the rogue wave accident that took eight lives triggered public outrage, Tourism Bureau Director David W.J. Hsieh (謝謂君) said yesterday.

Eight students from Shulin Community University in New Taipei City were swept out to sea by rogue waves on Saturday afternoon while walking on the coastal pavement of the Longdong Geopark in Gongliao District and were pronounced dead at a local hospital after being retrieved by rescue personnel.

Hsu said on Sunday that he will accept criticism for the incident, but will not accept "political responsibility," which was interpreted to mean that he will not resign from his position.

Hsieh said that the bureau is willing to accept criticism and suggestions from the public and work on improving the safety of tourist attractions.

"I already requested punishment because of the responsibility that I should take in this accident, and Hsu also agreed to be transferred to another position," said Hsieh.

Meanwhile, the Legislative Yuan's Transportation Committee yesterday passed a proposal demanding that Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) apologise for the inappropriate statement that Hsu made after the accident.

Legislators' of the Transportation Committee demanded that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) transfer Hsu to another position and conduct an investigation regarding the responsibility that he should take.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that Yeh must publicly apologise for Hsu's inappropriate statement by Wednesday.

Deputy Minister of the MOTC Jonathan Chen (陳純敬) said that Hsu's statement might mean that the government should be responsible for the accident too.

"However, I will still try to understand if Hsu was trying to avoid taking responsibility for the accident," said Hsu. "If there is any negligence that officials should be responsible for, the MOTC will definitely take care of it."

New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) visited the site where the accident took place. He demanded the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area dispatch guards to patrol the area regularly and report any dangerous situations immediately to avoid any similar accidents from happening again.