President admits regulations lax after 46 die in building fire

President Tsai Ing-wen (???) Saturday pledged to reform Taiwan's current building regulations, two days after a fire in Kaohsiung killed 46 people.

The death toll from the fire at the 13-story Cheng Chung Cheng (???) building in the early hours of Thursday was second-highest in Taiwan's history, behind a February 1995 blaze at the Weierkang Club in Taichung that killed 64.

Speaking with reporters after visiting those injured in the fire at the 40-year-old building, Tsai admitted that current building-management regulations were lax, adding that she had instructed the Cabinet to propose plans to improve the safety of all properties while facilitating urban renewal plans.

The president said government agencies should work with local authorities to reinforce fire safety inspections in older buildings, as well as ramp up efforts to facilitate government-led projects aimed at redeveloping older buildings and neighborhoods.

The most pressing issue is a thorough check of all mixed-use buildings in Taiwan, especially those partially abandoned and in a state of disrepair, and attending to problems within these buildings that pose a public safety risk, Tsai said.

According to the Urban Renewal Act, the central or a local government can plan and implement a redevelopment project to renovate or reconstruct one or several buildings in a designated area.

However, in part due to complex property rights issues, redevelopment projects involving older buildings often progress slowly.

Meanwhile, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (???), who also visited the hospitals caring for victims with Tsai on Saturday, said the city government would cover the medical fees for the victims of the building fire and help arrange accommodation for the next six months for residents who have been displaced.

According to Kaohsiung's Social Affairs Bureau, the city will also provide a one-off stipend of NT$50,000 (US$1,786) to the injured and NT$200,000 to the families of the deceased.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel