Saturday, August 15, 2009

Typhoon News Round Up

First, CNA says 1,300 still trapped in affected areas...
Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) The Central Emergency Operation Center (CEOC) said Saturday that 1,373 people were still trapped in isolated mountain villages in southern Taiwan as of that day, after Typhoon Morakot devastated the region the previous weekend, bringing torrential rain that triggered massive flooding and landslides.

The center said it would dispatch 75 helicopters later in the day to the villages in the counties of Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Taitung and Chiayi to conduct rescue missions and drop relief supplies.
BBC has a nice graphic of the mountain regions showing some of the problems, along with an article summarizing things to date. AP observes:

Residents have set about the huge task of rebuilding with the help of the army, a company of which was camped out at the local primary school.

As public complaints about the slow rescue work increase, the government said its operations have been hampered because many areas of the country were cut off when roads and bridges had collapsed.

Rescuers have relied on helicopters to reach the worst-hit areas, and on Thursday authorities requested larger choppers from foreign governments capable of carrying earth-moving equipment and shelters.

Many villagers have conducted their own rescue operations. More than 20,000 troops have joined civilian workers on rescue, cleanup and rehabilitation work, officials said.

Also of note is the Taipei Times' hard-hitting editorial from yesterday, which ended with the following three paragraphs:
Following the 921 Earthquake in 1999, US medical professionals studying the adequacy of the response identified a lack of central command, poor communication, lack of cooperation between the government and the military and various medical logistics problems as issues that demanded government attention.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Red Cross, in conjunction with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, spent three years developing a handbook and training manuals to improve and promote disaster response. The materials were bilingual and hundreds of copies were produced. But the program, which required ongoing training, allegedly floundered after a management change. The new team, according to a Red Cross report in May 2005, suffered from “limited upper management interest.”

The secretary-general of the new management team was Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
It is a start, but it doesn't go far enough. More to the point is Taiwan News' editorial on the link between Taiwan's pell-mell development model, the KMT-created construction-industrial state, and the disaster....
Like past floods and landslides in the wake of heavy rains, the huge floods sparked by Typhoon Morakot were triggered both by "natural" and decades of "man-made" factors, notably the excessive exploitation and virtually unregulated "development" from resorts to orchards in high-elevation and high elevation mountainous lands and the construction of "industrial roads" that have stripped up cover from sensitive watershed slope lands.


Satellite photographs released Tuesday by National Central University's Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research display how commercial or industrial zones or even hotels, residence and villages built right next to rivers and even inside their respective potential flood plains and "protected" by dikes have been swept away in flatlands such as Shuanghsi Bridge linking Kaohsiung and Pingtung Counties or mountain areas such as Hsiaolin Village in Kaohsiung County.
Floodplain development doesn't begin to cover it. I hope to enlarge on this in a future post, but let's talk about groundwater pumping, just as an example. Linbian on the coast was one of the hard hit areas in southern Taiwan...
(link) The research area is located mainly around the southwest coastline in Pingtung County including Linbian, Linyuan, Nanjou, and Cinbe. Owing to the rapid development of pisciculture, serious land subsidence from the excessive withdrawal of groundwater has resulted. According tothe results measured by theTaiwan Conservancy Bureau (Taiwan Conservancy Bureau, 1976), the strata in the region started to subside in 1961. The problem of settlement has become more serious since January 1979, and the rate of settlement was very rapid in the drought period in the first half of 1980, reaching an average rate of about 5 cm per month. The greatest settlement accumulated up till April 1992 was 2.35 m on the right outlet of the Linbian River in Linbian village. Moreover, it spread all around. After land subsidence, the low-lying areas in the region tend to suffer backward flow of seawater.
The land in the area had subsided 2.35 meters in some areas, and subsidence was extensive throughout the region. In Linbian alone there were 1,288 known pumping wells in 2003, with twice as many in Chiadong (link).Flooding was unstoppable in this massive rain, but human factors have made the problem much worse than it should have been.
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Anonymous said...

Whilst all this mention of the failings of the KMT is to be applauded will you offer any comments on the DPP's inability to expand the disaster/rescue infrastructure in Taiwan, or the DPP's allowance of forestry in mountain areas, or gravel removal from rivers, factors which contributed just as much to the typhoon disaster as the poor response of the present national administration.

Anonymous said...

Hau Long-bin? Seriously? What a bastard...

The current Red Cross also has some questions surrounding what it is really doing with those disaster donations.


Michael Turton said...

Whilst all this mention of the failings of the KMT is to be applauded will you offer any comments on the DPP's inability to expand the disaster/rescue infrastructure in Taiwan, or the DPP's allowance of forestry in mountain areas, or gravel removal from rivers, factors which contributed just as much to the typhoon disaster as the poor response of the present national administration.

I plan to get to all that, and already starting with the pumping problems. But it should be noted that the DPP did offer a comprehensive water basin conservation and restoration program, which involved pro-active anti-flood measures. As Taiwan News noted in an editorial the other day, the KMT legislature gutted this and turned it into the usual "spray concrete over the countryside" program with no real flood control or water conservation.

Clearly, until the public stops voting for its patronage networks to occupy the legislature, the government will never get anywhere. The government itself is full of people with expertise and the desire to do the right thing, but the KMT legislature simply does not give a shit about the island.


Anonymous said...

You heard the latest plan to fix this problem?

Just move all the villages off the mountains.

There have been villages in those mountains for at least a couple thousand years. The problem has more to do with environmental degradation and irresponsible zoning/development schemes.

The relocation program sounds a lot like what the Japanese and KMT attempted to do to control the Aborigines and exploit their resources.

Anonymous said...

Qudos for responding to my post yesterday, Michael. But please, the DPP have been stating numerous environmental ideas for years. Remember the Green Silicon Island Plan? How Taiwan would become an island governed by sustainable development policies, how this would drive public policies on a variety of issues? What has become of it? Zero! So whilst water catchment plans are great at the same time if you are ok-ing gravel removal from the river bed and allowing factories to pollute rivers the effectiveness of any enviro plan will be minimal. And bang, when that once in a lifetime storm comes along, its just not designed to cope with the stresses placed on the land. The land in Taiwan is a resources to be exploited, not an asset to treasure and as Morakot, showed, respect.

Anonymous said...

Ma's first reaction: Don't touch me.
Ma's second reaction: It's your fault.
Ma's third reaction: We don't need your help.
Ma's fourth reaction: I need to protect myself first
Ma's fith reaction: While "they" are preoccupied with loss and recovery, this is certainly a good opportunity for me to push through the ECFA

Marc said...

Oh please stop with all this need for balanced criticism, anon. The DPP never really had a chance to deliver on most environmental plans since the funds were controlled by a KMT-dominated the legislature.

Ever since the KMT arrived in Taiwan, they've been pillaging all the resources -- first the forests, then the rocks, sand and gravel. And I wonder how many betel nut forests there were prior to 1949? Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

The KMT has ALWAYS held as its paramount concern the desire to consolidate and maintain power.

I can't help but feel that at every stage during this disaster the politicians have been brainstorming to find the best way to take political advantage of this situation. The entire tale of the government's response could be plotted out by analyzing the possible political motives.

Now, I am very worried that Ma will use the economic impact of the typhoon to push harder for his ECFA.

Anonymous said...

yea. we all know what the "right" things to get done in the future: stop overdevelopment, move villages, stop this and stop that. Yet, we all already know what kind of strong reactions by the affected local citizens these right remedies would trigger. Demonstrations, saying the governements doens't care are all inevitable outcomes so that the locals don't have to change their own actions and behaviors, either... blah..blah... Nothing would be done at the end of the day, because local people living there don't want to change, don't want to move and don't want to stop doing whatever they are doing that is impacting their environment. They only want to blame everyone else when their own actions triggers the disasters.

And the problem with democracy is that there is only so much politicians are willing to do to bear the wrath of the local voters, so everyone turns a blind eye: the local populations and the politicians and the cental governemtn. Democracy is all about short-term vision and getting the votes next year. It's sad to say this, but these local people chose their own fate and they will suffer the fate that they brought upon themselves.

Anonymous said...

Natural Disasters don't discriminate if you are green or blue. I wonder what would have happened if this typhoon had struck Taiwan during Chen's administration. Would the Pan Green supporters accepted donations from China? Obviously not. And this goes all the way back to the Chiang era. Its a matter of pride. We are supposed to be the 'winner' and never feel pity for ourselves lest allow others to do so. This has always been USA's moral doctrine.

Readin said...

How did Hau Long-bin end up in charge of disaster preparations during the Chen administration?

Readin said...

Anon wrote:
You heard the latest plan to fix this problem?

Just move all the villages off the mountains.

Where to? The flood plains? It's not like Taiwan has a lot of prime real estate hanging around. Other than Bangladesh it is the most densely populated country of any decent size.

Readin said...

I noticed something strange in this CNN video

A protestor, who is supposedly protesting Ma's handling of the crisis, is carrying a 'One Taiwan - One China' poster. Nice of them to show the Taiwanese point of view on China, but why would a protestor be holding that sign to complain about his handling of the typhoon disaster?