The Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee yesterday passed a motion to form a task force that would require the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to turn in all documents related to the derailment of the Taroko Express No. 408 in Hualien County on Friday last week.
The committee passed the motion and several other resolutions related to the derailment after briefings by Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and TRA Acting Director-General Chi Wen-chung (祁文中) about the crash, which killed 50 people and injured more than 200.
Lin and Chi had been at the crash site since the incident to facilitate rescue and restoration work.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Article 45 of the Law Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power (立法院職權行使法) authorizes the branch to establish a document request committee or an ad hoc task force to request information from government agencies in specific cases.
The TRA within three days is to submit to the task force all documents pertaining to contractors that operated at the site of the derailment in the past five years, including their plans to respond to damage caused by natural or occupational incidents, and to ensure that rail services would not be disrupted, the motion said.
Lin faced harsh criticism at the meeting, with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers calling him a “co-offender” and asking him to resign.
“The TRA said that it would seek restitution from the contractors and went along with the lies that crane truck driver Lee Yi-hsiang (李義祥) offered,” KMT Legislator Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) said. “How can anyone trust any investigation by the TRA or other government agencies?”
“What kind of country would allow a fatal accident so soon after the derailment of Puyuma Express No. 6432 killed 21 people?” Cheng asked, referring to a 2018 crash.
“This is a national disgrace and officials of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration should immediately resign,” she said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪), who represents districts in Taitung County, broke down in tears as he questioned Lin.
“My heart is heavy beyond words whenever I think about how families and relatives of those killed asked for help when I visited them at funeral homes,” Liu said.
As the ruling party, the DPP should bear the responsibility, Liu said, adding that the ministry should — as a bare minimum — establish a comprehensive detection system to alert about intrusions of foreign objects onto railway lines within two or three years.
The TRA is installing detectors on unstable slopes along the line, Lin told the committee, adding that the project is to be completed next year.
“However, we are facing a new situation in which a contractor disobeyed orders by working at a construction site during a holiday,” he said.
On top of the work to mitigate disasters from slope failure, “we have to prevent construction vehicles and other material from affecting rail operations,” he said.
The TRA needs a smart control system to help it manage the 1,065km of railway lines it manages nationwide, Lin said, adding that he would help secure the funding it needs for such a system.
The meeting came after the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the derailment, on Tuesday presented material unfavorable to Lee.
The crane truck fell onto the tracks about 90 seconds before it was struck by the train, which was about to enter the Cingshuei Tunnel (清水隧道) in Hualien’s Sioulin Township (秀林), the board said.
Lee told investigators that he alone went to the construction site on Friday, but footage from the truck’s onboard camera showed that other workers were on site, with the truck and several excavators operating, it said.
Lee told investigators that the truck had been parked on a curve uphill from the tracks with the parking brake engaged, but the footage showed that the truck’s engine was turned on and off after it became tangled in bushes shortly before it slid through a treeless patch and onto the tracks, the board said.
TENSE SITUATION: If the storm does not bring rain, Taiwan might have to wait until next month amid water scarcity in the center and south, an expert said Typhoon Surigae is to bring rain to the nation’s east coast and mountainous areas in central and southern Taiwan from Wednesday to Friday, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. As of 2pm yesterday, the typhoon’s center was 1,170km southeast of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), Taiwan’s southernmost tip. The radius of the storm was 280km, and it was moving northwest at 9kph, with a maximum wind speed of 198kph. The bureau forecasts that the storm would switch to a northerly direction when approaching the east coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines on Wednesday, CWB forecaster Lin Ding-yi (林定宜) said, adding that Surigae would
INTERNATIONAL WEED DAY: Advocates are to hold a demonstration to push for the decriminalization of marijuana and allowing its use for treatment of certain conditions It is time for Taiwanese society to examine the medical benefits of cannabis, in line with the international trend to lift restrictions on and decriminalize the use of marijuana, two legislators said yesterday, ahead of tomorrow’s “Rally for Equal Rights for Cannabis” in Taipei. Taiwan is one of a few countries holding a “420 International Weed Day” event — which usually takes place around the April 20 weekend — as most nations have canceled it this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said organizer Green Sensation, which is composed of doctors, lawyers and entertainers, among others. The group released a
‘NOT ENTHUSIASTIC’: People who have been approved by the CECC as special cases who need to travel, such as foreign diplomats, would be able to receive a vaccine The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday expanded the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination to the fourth priority group — people who need to travel abroad for special reasons — adding that out-of-pocket vaccines would be available from Wednesday next week. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said although Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccination program was on Monday expanded to include the top three groups in the priority list, people are still “not enthusiastic” about getting vaccinated. “Only 1,220 people received a vaccine shot on Tuesday, and a total of 27,113 people have received COVID-19 vaccination” so far, he
CAUTION: People should drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day, while men can eat pumpkin seeds to protect the prostate, a doctor in Taipei said Holding urine for long periods could lead to an atonic bladder, or could cause inflammation of the urinary tract, hematuria or renal retention, a urologist said. Chang Fu-chung (張甫仲), a doctor at Taipei Hospital’s Department of Urology, on Friday last week said that the hospital admitted a 38-year-old woman who complained of a sharp, stinging pain when urinating. Chang said he diagnosed her with urethritis, based on her symptoms and darker-colored urine. The top three groups of people who usually hold off going to the restroom are women, middle-aged and older people with prostatic hyperplasia, and those who fail to drink enough water