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September 21, 2017

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Ma wants earlier closure notices for emergencies

President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday called for the Central Weather Bureau (CWB, 氣象局) to post its daily forecast by 4 a.m., so that local governments have the means to report school or work cancellations by 5:30 a.m.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the Taipei City Government posted an afternoon suspension of work and class, citing adverse weather conditions. At 9:54 a.m., the order was revised to a cancellation effective immediately, resulting in confusion and ire from parts of the public.

In previous years, the CWB has provided accurate consultation on whether to perform evacuations or to seal off transit areas during natural disasters, said Ma during a briefing yesterday with the weather bureau.

But the CWB does not always provide timely consultations for school and work suspensions, he continued. This has created hardship for local governments across Taiwan, who are requesting now that the CWB issue its forecasts by 4 a.m., Ma said.

In turn, city and county governments are to report their decisions by 5:30 a.m., said Ma.

"When local governments have the 4 a.m. information, they should be able to make a definite and prompt decision," he said.

OK from CWB

The bureau typically posts very early forecasts related to typhoons, but not for torrential rainfall, said CWB Director-General Shin Tzay-chyn (辛在勤) at a briefing yesterday.

But there is "no technical difficulty" that hinders an early forecast for rain, said Shin.

"We'll put the deadline at 4 a.m.," he said.

If sudden changes in weather justify the full-day or morning cancellation of work or school, local governments must report their decision by 5:00 a.m. on the condition that they receive CWB data by 4:30 a.m., according to Article 3 of "Operation Regulations on the Suspension of Offices and Classes because of Natural Disasters" (天然災害停止辦公及上課作業辦法).

Taipei Mayor Apologizes

Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday apologized for not posting the morning cancellation until 9:54 a.m. on Tuesday.

Some Taipei residents criticized Hau for subjecting them to an unnecessary commute and creating a traffic jam through the sudden release of students and office workers.

Hau apologized yesterday for the "inconvenience and distress" caused by the split-second announcement.

"That was Taipei's first 'rain cancellation,'" said Hau yesterday in Wenshan District (文山區), where he was inspecting damage caused by severe flooding.

The administration is set to examine its response protocol to torrential rain, he said.

Currently, Taipei orders a cancellation if rainfall accumulation reaches 350 mm within 24 hours, but that could change, said Hau.

The Taipei City Government may adjust the benchmark, or it could revise protocol so that a cancellation decision is based on projected rainfall, he continued.

In addition, neighboring Taipei, Keelung City and New Taipei City will establish a communication network so that they may contact and consult with one another before a decision, according to Hau.

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