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Hualien sets rules to curb mountain hiking accidents

2017/03/27 23:31:16

(CNA file photo)

Taipei, March 27 (CNA) The local government of eastern Taiwan's Hualien County has drafted a statute to regulate mountaineering activities, after the number of hiking accidents increased 350 percent in five years.

According to local fire department data, the county recorded 42 mountaineering accidents in 2016, a 3.5-fold increase from five years ago.

Such accidents had not only exhausted rescue manpower designated for deep forest search missions, but also depleted the county's budget for rescue operations, Lin Wen-jui (林文瑞), head of the fire department, said Monday.

If helicopters are mobilized, the fuel cost will be as high as around NT$1.2 million (US$39,900) per flight, Lin said, and "this does not even include the pay for overtime work hours of the rescue personnel, their insurance fees and the consequent medical charges."

According to the county government, a recent rescue mission had prompted the mobilization of over 400 people in 17 days to search for a missing hiker on Mount Erzi. The cost of fuel consumed by mobilized vehicles reached NT$21.6 million, the local government noted.

Lin pointed out that Hualien, home to 43 mountains at an altitude of over 3,000 meters, has many popular mountaineering routes. However, many hikers enter preserved mountainous areas without permits, with some ending up in accidents that cause them injuries or even death, Lin said.

Given that, the county felt it was necessary to set up regulations governing mountaineering activities to prevent accidents from happening, Lin said.

The draft statute stipulates that in restricted mountainous areas, mountaineering groups or individuals must apply for an entrance permit, present and carry out their mountaineering plans, bring positioning devices, hire a professional guide and buy a comprehensive mountaineering insurance plan.

After the statute takes effect, those who violate it could face a fine ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$50,000, and must pay all the incurred bills if accidents happen as a result of their illegal acts, Lin said.

The draft bill was delivered to the county council on Monday for a review, which is expected to take place in April.

It will be enforced at once after clearing the county council's floor, Lin said.

(By Tyson Lu and Elizabeth Hsu)
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