Groups call for crackdown on illegal buildings to protect firefighters

Taipei,  Several civic groups staged a protest in Taipei on Wednesday, calling on the government to better protect the lives of firefighters by strictly enforcing the laws against illegal structures.

Noting the death of two firefighters at Taichung factory in 2019, the protesters said there has been poor enforcement of the Factory Management Act, which stipulates that illegal structures built after May 2016 should be torn down immediately after they are reported.

Furthermore, that law, along with the Fire Services Act and Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act, requires the disclosure of information about factory buildings, which would allow firefighters to devise rescue plans and evaluate the risks, in the event of a fire, the protesters said.

That information, however, is scattered across different central government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Administration, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Economic Affairs, said Lee Tsung-wu (李宗吾), vice chairman of the National Association for Firefighters’ Rights (NAFR), one of the groups at the protest.

As a result, it is difficult for fire departments in cities, towns, and villages across the country to access that information, Lee said at the protest, which was staged by several civic groups in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei.

Lee said a National Fire Agency (NFA) report last month on its investigation into the 2019 Taichung factory fire that killed two firefighters was disappointing, as it did not address the issue of how best to disseminate information on public safety.

When the fire broke out, the sheet metal factory in Taichung’s Daya District collapsed, crushing the two firefighters and trapping them inside the building, which was an illegal structure, he noted.

The NFA report acknowledged for the first time at a government level the problem of illegal structures, many of which are built on farmlands and used as factories, but it gave no concrete recommendations on how the government should proceed to address the problem, Lee said.

According to Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan (CET), one of the protesting groups, government data showed that there were 13,859 hectares of illegal factory structures in Taiwan in 2017, but that number had increased to 18,417 in 2019.

The CET said that since March 2020, it has reported 201 illegal factories, but only 5 percent have been penalized by the government.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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