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August 19, 2009

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Ma vows storm-response probe

TAIWAN leader Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that his administration would investigate officials for being slow in rescue efforts after Typhoon Morakot, which killed an estimated 500 people and is expected to hamper the economy in the short term.

Ma told a news conference that the government would announce by early September whether any one would be held responsible.

"We will have a review of the performance of the government to make sure to identify the mistakes," Ma said, after bowing in apology. "And then we will start the investigation and punishment process."

Last week, the government replaced the island's Fire Agency's disaster center chief with Mao Chi-kuo, head of the transport authority, after criticism from the public that the previous chief was too slow off the mark in rescue operations.

Morakot, the island's worst typhoon in 50 years, hit Taiwan over a week ago. So far, the official death toll is at 127, with over 300 more missing.

Ma said six rescuers died in rescue operation.

Post-disaster search and rescue work will become a big job for Taiwan, Ma said, adding that the government would cut back purchases of US military helicopters to spend T$10 billion on disaster relief equipment.

Torrential rains caused mudslides, which destroyed roads, wiped out villages in the south and caused farm-related losses of T$13 billion. The overall typhoon damage total will reach as high as T$110 billion, Ma said.

Ma said the typhoon would likely hurt the tech-reliant economy in the third quarter, in line with analysts' expectations.


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