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Alishan visitor numbers plunge after highway closure

2012/08/05 19:47:03

Taipei, Aug. 5 (CNA) Fewer than 100 visitors a day arrived at the Alishan Forest Recreation Park this weekend, as the main highway leading to the tourist spot was closed after Typhoon Saola-induced landslides, Chiayi County officials said Sunday.

Traffic on Highway No. 18, the main road serving the park, has been affected by severe weather conditions since June, said the Chiayi Forest District Office that runs the park.

The park just recorded this year's 1 millionth visitor in mid-May -- two to three months earlier than in past years, the office noted.

Torrential rain June 12 and Tropical Storm Talim later that month each led to the precautionary closure of the highway between the 66 km and 88 km marks for a total of six days before it was closed again Aug. 1 because of Typhoon Saola.

A landslide that occurred late Aug. 3 at the 35 km point near Chukou, where the highway begins climbing the mountain, forced the highway's closure again. It had reopened just earlier that same day.

The highway is not expected to reopen for another five to six working days, and the local tourism industry has been greatly impacted, the office said.

Only 38 visitors -- mainly members of tour groups from Hong Kong and Singapore -- had entered the park Sunday as of 2:30 p.m., the office said, a time when thousands of visitors are usually recorded on an average day.

The Directorate General of Highways suggested County Highway No. 159A as an alternative route for visitors planning to visit the area.

(By Huang Kuo-fang and Kay Liu)