After Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, convened to renegotiate a hastily approved, $3.65-billion reconstruction bill late in September, a new budget now has been released, requesting the same value. The “Special Statute for Reconstruction for Post-Typhoon Morakot Disaster,” announced on Oct. 12, calls for the Yuan to set up a reconstruction implementation committee with Premier Wu Dun-yih and Vice Premier Eric Li-luan Chu as primary overseers of the three-year reconstruction program.

Taiwan typhoon damage is still being assessed, mostly in rural areas.
Photo: AP/Worldwide
Taiwan typhoon damage is still being assessed, mostly in rural areas.

For now, immediate attention is slowly shifting away from relief efforts and moving toward cleanup and reinforcement priorities. Typhoon Morakot, Taiwan’s worst storm in 50 years, in August left over 650 dead and more than 10,000 homeless, most of whom have found shelter in temporary homes. Now, there is a need to clear remaining debris and consider reinforcements before design and rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure can begin.

Tseng Ching-Tsung, vice president of Ret-ser Engineering Corp., says prior to reconstruction, damaged areas must be cleaned, including “bridges and roads in the mountain areas.” Heavy rainfall from Typhoon Morakot washed out embankments. Although streets mostly were cleared of accumulated silt by the end of August, side ditches, main drainage boxes and culverts remain clogged. Tseng believes it’s still not safe in some mountain areas to begin reconstruction work.

One policy enacted by former Premier Liu Chao-shiuan—whom President Ma Ying-jeou replaced in response to criticism for his slow disaster response—has been maintained by Wu: subsidies are providing southern townships funding to install floodgates. Kao Tsung-Chung, a professor in the construction engineering and management program of the Civil Engineering Dept. at National Taiwan University, says water resource protection and soil reinforcement are priorities. Environmental protection bureaus of county governments are currently working to flush out residential septic tanks and sewer lines, with the aid of the military. He predicts highways, bridges—more than 140 of which were destroyed—will consume the majority of work.

Wu retracted the government’s original proposal, passed on Aug. 27, to permit time to develop a more detailed recovery plan, which would include particulars for contract procurement by national ministries, local government offices and private enterprises. Cabinet ministries submitted regulations drafts and budget requests on Oct. 17.

“At the present time, [allocating contracts] isn’t figured out yet,” says Kao. “There are some plans which are being studied by government committees, and it is still in progress.”

One such committee, led by the Council of Agriculture, has been asked by Vice Premier Chu to formulate a clear policy on public efforts to clear debris. Otherwise, most ministries have been asked to speed up the drafting of ancillary regulations pertaining to the “Special Act Governing Reconstruction After Typhoon Morakot.”

Eventually, reconstruction work will be assigned according to open tenders, says Tseng. The government will issue design bids, followed by bidding for “qualified contractors with competitive prices to tackle projects,” he says. As of now, however, construction efforts “are all quite disbursed,” says Kao. “No major contract has yet been formally initiated.”

Until then, emergency efforts are being shared by governmental, non-governmental and private organizations. Local governments “have emergency service contracts already in place, where firms have already been contractually chosen and go into the field,” says Shannon Lee, president of the Taiwan Construction Research Institute, which is overseeing engineering projects related to the typhoon for the Red Cross. Taiwan’s Red Cross Society and World Vision have committed to building permanent houses for evacuees. Tzu Chi, the Buddhist relief foundation, was selected by the Premier for relief work, which is to serve as a model in the future. Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronic and computer component parts, is focusing on long-term health care. Construction companies, including CECI and SinoTech, are providing monetary aid.

None of these projects is yet funded by the central government, “so charity organizations and religious sects directly assign their projects to contractors,” says Lee.