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Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Shoddy builders face Taiwan crackdown

Demonstrators planned to camp outside the president's office

Earthquake victims rallying outside the president's office in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, have been assured that no efforts will be spared to prosecute contractors responsible for building collapses.

Quake in Taiwan
A peaceful protest dispersed late on Saturday after police stopped about 300 demonstrators from camping outside President Lee Teng-hui's office.

He promised them that he would keep up the investigation of shoddy construction.

So far, President Lee said, nearly 150 contractors and architects had been detained and their passports confiscated or their assets frozen after the devastating earthquake on 21 September.

They are facing an assortment of charges, including involuntary homicide and endangering public security.


[ image: Unhappy with the government's response]
Unhappy with the government's response
The demonstrators were demanding government compensation for their losses.

The government has refused to take over an estimated $310 in mortgages.

Many people told Mr Lee that while their homes appeared only slightly damaged, they are living in tents because they fear another aftershock.

Unfurling banners emblazoned with the words "Killer Contractors" and "Rebuild our Homes," they complained that the government's proposals are not specific enough.

Death toll rises

Shoddy construction during Taiwan's building boom is thought to have contributed to the death toll, which the government updated on Saturday to 2,295.

Many of the victims died under the rubble of collapsed buildings. About 38,000 homes collapsed or were severely damaged.

Taiwan's parliament has passed an emergency decree allowing the government to force evacuations, appropriate private buildings and disregard all planning laws during reconstruction.

Officials are expecting troops to have repaired all damaged roads, demolished dangerous buildings and cleared debris by the end of this month.

They aim to finish constructing temporary accommodation for the thousands left homeless by next February, before winter sets in and conditions deteriorate.

Sombre National Day

The victims of the earthquake will be remembered on a rather subdued National Day on Sunday.

All the usual parades and displays have been cancelled.

President Lee will attend a private ceremony with senior government officials and on Monday a memorial service for the victims will be held at a stadium in the capital, Taipei.





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