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22 hikers remain on mountains, face fines

The China Post news staff--A few hundred mountain climbers are facing government fines after refusing to leave a mountainous area after the government issued a severe storm land warning. They may be obliged to pay a fee for ineffectively applying the government's rescue resources after violating evacuation orders, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said yesterday. He urged climbers to leave the mountains before the storm affected any road exits.

Official reports show that roughly 100 applicants entered the mountain trails despite fervent opposition from officials with Tropical Storm Talim approaching. According to the law, officials are not authorized to restrict people from mountain hiking before the issuance of a severe storm land warning.

The National Fire Agency (NFA) also added that in previous cases, climbers who were granted legal access directly before the land warning were forced to seek refuge in the mountains when the storm hit. It wasn't until Lee announced the fee policy that most hikers were persuaded to leave the trails on Tuesday morning, except for 22 climbers who refused to leave the mountain areas, the NFA reported.

Lee said that there is “no such thing” as taking refuge in the mountains, urging climbers to abandon their hikes immediately. With Tropical Storm Talim heading toward Taiwan at full force, Lee said that the government will be obliged to send out rescue teams if people are trapped in the mountains, but climbers should not willingly abuse the government's rescue resources, especially when they have been warned ahead of time. He also added that rescue teams will be occupied in disaster areas, and climbers should show empathy by leaving dangerous zones before the storm hits.

The NFA said reckless climbers will be fined compensation fees, service fees, and even transportation fees if they refuse to cooperate with officials according to the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act. The NFA also said that if a helicopter is required for rescue efforts, the minimum fuel cost for one trip is about NT$20,000.

The interior minister said that this was a waste of social resources, not to mention putting more rescuers in danger.

The NFA said that until now, no one has been charged with reckless behavior or received any fines. Even wave spectators around seashores have only been issued warning slips, said the NFA.

Nevertheless, the agency reminded the people that any sort of fine or compensation fee could amount to a huge sum, and advised the people to stay away from the restricted areas.

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