A petition to the government to abandon the practice of giving only a half day when a typhoon is threatening the country had received the required number of online supporters Wednesday and is now due to receive an official response.
The petition, launched Sept. 14 on the National Development Council's (NDC) Join website, proposed that the government close schools and offices for a whole day in the event of an approaching typhoon instead of allowing half-day closures.
The person who initiated the petition, known only by the screen name "pear5456," cited as an example the Tainan City government's decision to give only a half day on Sept. 14 ahead of Typhoon Meranti.
It was dangerous for the workers and students to go home in the afternoon when the rain and wind began to pick up, pear5456 said.
As of 4:05 p.m. Wednesday, the proposal has obtained the support of 5,772 people, passing the 5,000 threshold that is required to receive a response from the government within a month.
The NDC launched the website in February 2015 to encourage public participation in the formulation of government policies.
It also allows people to launch petitions without giving their real names, once they provide a valid email address and mobile phone number.
On Wednesday morning, Cabinet spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (???) addressed the issue of half-day closures, after several southern Taiwanese counties and cities made that decision the previous day due to Typhoon Megi.
Tung noted that local governments are authorized to decide on such closures under a set of rules called Operation Regulations on the Suspension of Offices and Classes because of Natural Disasters. However, in light of the inconvenience caused by half-day closures, the central government will discuss the matter with the local governments, Tung said.
While the regulations apply only to schools and government offices, the decision is usually followed by the private sector, including banks and financial markets.
Faced with public criticism that the Kaohsiung City government's half-day closures Tuesday ahead of Typhoon Megi had endangered school children, Mayor Chen Chu (??) said she was "very sorry" about the decision.
Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (???), meanwhile, said the safety of citizens is the top priority when deciding whether to call a typhoon day, but he must also take into consideration the city's productivity and competitiveness.
He asked for the public's understanding regarding the half-day closures Tuesday ahead of Typhoon Megi, a decision that he said was based on the weather forecast Monday evening, which showed Tainan would not be affected heavily enough to warrant school and office closures Tuesday morning.
Typhoon Megi slammed ashore in Taiwan Tuesday, bringing torrential rain and winds of up to 198 kilometers per hour and causing flooding in several areas in Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung overnight.
Nationwide, four people died and 625 were injured during the storm, according to Central Emergency Operation Center information valid as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.
By 8 p.m. Tuesday, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Chiayi County, Chiayi City and Yunlin County, which had announced half-day closures the night before, had decided on a full typhoon day Wednesday, while Taipei made its announcement shortly before 10 p.m.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel