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Premier boosts rescue efforts after freeway landslide

2010/04/26 18:05

Taipei, April 26 (CNA) Premier Wu Den-yih Monday ordered moremanpower and machinery to be employed for rescue missions on the No.3 Freeway between Taipei and Keelung in northern Taiwan.

"Saving lives is the current priority, " he said during a visitto southern Taiwan's Pingtung County. Meanwhile, he added, theMinistry of Transportation and Communications and the Keelung Citygovernment have outlined transportation alternatives for commuters onthe national freeway.

Without an obvious cause like an earthquake or human activity, aslope slid the previous day from the eastern side of the freeway atthe 3.1-kilometer mark from the northern end, just north of the Chitutoll station, burying more than 300 meters of road.

Earlier Monday, the Keelung City Fire Bureau said it had receivednine phone calls for help to search for missing cars after theincident occurred. It contacted the owners of seven vehiclessuspected of being buried in landslide, but there are still two carsmissing, the bureau said.

As of noon Monday, no people or vehicles had been discovered inthe dirt and rocks that buried the freeway. Taiwan Area NationalFreeway Bureau Director General Tseng Ta-jen said efforts to clearthe road were proceeding faster than scheduled.

"The work is expected to be completed two weeks ahead of plans, "he said, noting that it is still unclear whether people are trappedin the rubble.

According to Tseng, nearly 120 vehicles, including 45 excavators,and over 900 personnel had been mobilized for the project.

It was estimated that 200,000 cubic meters of dirt and rockspoured onto the road in what was the worst landslide ever on afreeway in the country, the national freeway bureau said.

Lin Chao-chung, director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs'Central Geological Survey, attributed the landslide to rock anchors-- steel reinforcers -- in restraining walls along the freeways.

Faulty construction or wear on the anchors could have led to theslide, Lin said.

An investigation into the incident has been launched.

That section of the freeway was opened in 2000.

The 430.5 km-long No. 3 National Freeway was the secondNorth-South freeway built in Taiwan. It begins at Jijin Interchangeon Provincial Highway No. 2, or Jijin Road, in Keelung City and endson Provincial Highway No. 17 in Pingtung County's Linbian. Theconstruction began in 1987, and the first completed section wasopened for traffic in 1993.

(By Bien Chin-feng, Chen Chin-ping and Elizabeth Hsu)enditem/bc